As it turned out about 40 eager Parklands of Floyds Fork members showed up for the muddy hike on Monday, December 28, under dismal gray and rainy skies, many apparently to give proof to the outdoor adage happily offered by Parks Director and tour guide Scott Martin: “There is no such thing as bad weather – just bad gear.”
Those gathered had missed the last minute cancellation notice for the walk, but Martin had checked the weather radar and agreed to lead a shortened trip; the sense of adventure perhaps a step ahead of common sense.
But these were hikers. Besides, the lure of the journey made any rain gear worthwhile. It would be a “sneak peek” at The Strand – that lovely, narrow, twisting, poetic-sounding section of Floyds Fork that connects Pope Lick and Turkey Run Parks.
Who wouldn’t want to beat the crowd to that; to obtain some necessary Parklands bragging rights; to be among the very first to walk The Strand – which along with the entire park is scheduled to open in the spring of 2016.
“It’s a section,” said the irrepressible Martin, who didn’t bother to don very much of anything in the way of rain gear, “where you do not know you are in Louisville.”
And for all those who missed Monday’s walk stay tuned to the Parklands website for an announcement of a second member ‘sneak peek' hike in January – Sneak Peek II in modern Hollywood parlance.
We who did go anyway gathered early afternoon at the Cane Run Paddling Access off Echo Trail. Our rain gear included tennis shoes, boots, jeans, jackets, scarves and roughly quarter-acre-wide umbrellas.
Among the first to gather was Keith Stenger of Bloomfield, KY., whose connection to the Parklands has a forward gait all its own. It began last summer when his daughter wanted to do a bike tour. Stenger, who works with computers at the University of Kentucky, has been biking since he was a teenager. He looked up all area biking sites and the Parklands seemed perfect. It was. He and his daughter road their bikes along the park trail from Taylorsville Road up to Shelbyville Road.
“Then I started thinking if I’m going to use the park I should donate to it,” he said.
So he became a member. Then he attended a dinner at the Silo Center this spring with some friends, where they spoke to a couple of park volunteers who mentioned a tree planting the next day.
“So the next day I’m out planting trees,” he said, “and the rest is history.”
But it’s history with a future. He is very connected to scouting and outdoor programs and will see if he can get local scouts and perhaps the UK College of Forestry involved in some Parklands projects.
We rain-splattered hikers headed to The Strand by walking back down the entrance road, single file along Echo Trail, and then down a long, muddy, graveled lane and marshy field – an entrance that will not be open when the park opens. Future visitors to the area can walk in from the Seaton Valley or Pope Lick sites – or float past in a canoe.
On our left, beyond the fence row of stark, winter-bare trees, was Sunny Acres Farm. Martin explained it already offers a corn maze in the fall, and may someday offer garden-market food and even a restaurant for Parklands visitors. For now the 200 acres of farmland and riding horses will be preserved as is, offering a connective “pastoral legacy” for the park.
Our first Stand landmark on the journey was a “Leaping Deer Bridge,” a metal span over the rain-swollen Floyds Fork so named because, given the right mind-set, it can resemble a crouched deer leaping across the water. A second, longer bridge further down The Strand would not be accessible this day due to the high water.
Martin pulled the group together to talk about the native tree-planting programs along Floyds Fork, the narrowness of the park property at this point – hence The Strand – that could be expanded with a future purchase.
He explained the park managers have found such high water somewhat useful in that it provides the opportunity to learn from such floods, to see what is damaged where, and make future plans accordingly.
He mentioned the rocky palisades along the river, sheer limestone bluffs that rise 80 to 100 feet in some places, and once served to mark the swimming holes of former residents along Floyds Fork.
Pointing out the deliberately rusty patina of the walking bridge he told a favorite story about the same. He said a lady called and said she loved the park, but its creators were getting ripped off.
“That bridge is rusty,” the caller said.
Martin explained to her the bridge was supposed to be rusty – both for looks and low-maintenance.
“You’re just spinning,” the caller said.
Another hiker on our journey who has grown thoroughly attached to the Parklands – if not becoming its leading volunteer salesperson – was LaVerne Cook.
Some four feet tall from her brown hiking boots, gray rain pants and orange-red jacket to the top of her green knit cap, she and her husband, Mike, have embraced the park as part of the family.
Some of that passion is geography; they live on Pope Lick Road about three minutes from the Parklands:
“We were out there every day while they were building it with our mouths open.”
Some of it was timing; there was some fear in the neighborhood of too many subdivisions crowding in – and then came a buffering, 4,000-acre park:
“I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is perfect.’”
Once the walking paths were complete, she and Mike were out there walking almost every day, becoming park volunteers and ambassadors. If they saw other visitors who looked like they needed guidance, they would offer suggestions, answer questions, provide information.
Pretty soon LaVerne was carrying park membership forms, encouraging visitors to help fund this donor-supported park at many levels. It’s all a plan with a future. Parklands Member Information
“Now we take our grandchildren,” she said.
Our walking group poised at the far side of the bridge, looking down the muddy path at all the future possibilities; the longer bridge; the quiet path; the miles of river’s edge solitude.
Heading back to our cars and trucks ahead of any serious rain, we paused at The Walnut Grove. The site is more history in the making; hundreds of black walnut trees set in even rows. The grove had already been the site of a Parklands “Field & Fork” event (see photos here) and might someday serve as a site for wooded weddings – with a family campsite nearby for other less serious endeavors and a parking lot to more easily get home.
We hikers paused to walk among the trees – a section of The Strand which will someday become part of the 100-mile Louisville Loop. The trees had been planted by a previous owner as an investment, but that’s all been changed, too.
“These trees will never be harvested now,” said Martin. “Come back in 20 or 30 years and imagine what you will see.”
Or….you might get a sneak peek this January.
The January member "Sneak Peek" hike of The Strand is now full. Please keep an eye on The Parklands website for annoucements on a member "Sneak Peek" hike of Broad Run Park, opening Spring 2016.
Former Louisville-Courier columnist Bob Hill is a historian for The Parklands of Floyds Fork. He travels Floyds Fork writing of the people, the places and the history of the stream within the 20-mile park system - all of which is to be preserved in the Filson Historical Society. Some of Hill's stories appear in A Landscape and its Legacy, the commemorative book for The Parklands of Floyds Fork project. Hill has also compiled a Floyds Fork “Places & Faces” presentation that adds imagery to the words.
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