Imagine leaving work and 20 minutes later finding yourself canoeing one of Kentucky’s classic streams. Or, walking across a suspension bridge elevated some 50 feet amidst a canopy of trees. Camping under the stars with your child’s scout group. Stopping a farmer’s market along a tree-lined promenade. Hiking some of the 100 miles of trails, or traversing world-class mountain bike trails. Hosting a family reunion picnic in a retrofitted Kentucky barn.

These are just some of the experiences our residents and visitors will enjoy in The Parklands of Floyds Fork — the roughly 4,000-acre new public park system 21st Century Parks will build and manage in eastern and southeastern Louisville.

Last week, we unveiled the naming structure for The Parklands and its four major parks: Beckley Creek Park, Pope Lick Park, Turkey Run Park and Broad Run Park, all named for tributaries of the Floyds Fork creek that winds through and unites the entire acreage.

All the parks within The Parklands will be interconnected by a continuous scenic park drive and 20 miles of the Louisville Loop — the planned 100-mile, paved multi-use hiking, walking and cycling path encircling the city. The park drive is a series of newly constructed roads in combination with existing roads to provide a beautiful driving experience and easy access to park amenities.

The parks will be easily accessible to the entire community, with key gateways intentionally placed close to major interchanges of the Gene Snyder expressway, at Shelbyville Road, Taylorsville Road, Billtown Road and Bardstown Road. Aside from the newly created roads and developed park amenities, approximately 80 percent of the land will be maintained in its natural state, and the entirety of the acreage will be protected in perpetuity as parkland.

In total, it will be a $75 million park-development project, following a $38 million investment in land acquisition. Nearly half the funds have come from the generous contributions of residents, corporations and foundations, with significant public funding coming from Sen. Mitch McConnell, Louisville Metro Government and, soon to be announced, the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

While the parks system will open in phases over the coming years, area residents will this month see “park coming soon” signs at key locations and, in a few weeks, we will break ground on our initial demonstration project, a creekside playground and splash park funded in part by Mayor Abramson’s city budget.

But as The Parklands of Floyds Fork move from planning to construction, we are hoping to educate the community that this project is more than a park. It is an investment in our community’s future.

This project demonstrates that Louisville is re-learning what Frederick Law Olmsted already knew when he planned Louisville’s first public parks system over a century ago. And that is to put in place quality parkland first — green infrastructure, so to speak — and the city will grow around it.

You see this in New York’s Central Park, and you see this in Louisville with the original Olmsted parks and parkway system. When Olmsted designed Louisville’s Cherokee, Iroquois and Shawnee parks, they were well outside the city limits. Today, the neighborhoods surrounding the parks are some of the most diverse and livable in the city.

In addition, parks are becoming a factor in cities’ competition for economic development opportunities. A recent study by the Home Builders Association found that proximity to walking and riding trails represented the major amenity that defined a desirable community. And as University of Louisville economist Paul Coomes notes, Louisville does not have an ocean or the Rocky Mountains, so we have to be better than other places with our manmade amenities. One of the major goals of this project is to continue Louisville’s tradition as a great place to live and work.

The Parklands will add almost 5 additional acres of new green space per 1,000 residents, which will move us ahead of several of our peer cities in this key measurement of quality of life.

Further, this project positions Louisville in a unique national spotlight.
The Parklands is one of the largest new municipal park-development projects currently underway in the United States. Not surprisingly, the other projects are in New York, Atlanta, Dallas and Orange County. They are all wonderful projects, but unlike the Parklands, in most cases their land was a former military or public sector facility that converted to parkland. One of the remarkable thing about the Parklands of Floyds Fork is that we and our partners—the land trust Future Fund and Louisville Metro Parks–pieced together a 15 mile long corridor of parkland and completed nearly 70 separate land transactions, all with no condemnation. This corridor, which cuts through the last undeveloped region of a top 50 metropolitan area, is only 20 minutes from downtown. The Parklands also is the only project of this scope that is 90 percent funded and will be open to the public within five years.

You can learn about the Parklands of Floyds Fork at our new website,Better yet, follow us on Facebook, sign up to be a volunteer, or schedule our speakers’ bureau to present to your neighborhood or civic group.

The vision of Louisville as a City of Parks is becoming a reality — and now is the time for our citizenry to learn more about parks projects underway, to understand the value of parks to our children and grandchildren, and to advocate for the community to continue to place a priority on quality park and recreational opportunities.

Chairman and CEO
21st Century Parks

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