DAVID A. JONES SR. | PARKS IDEA TAKING ROOT - THE COURIER JOURNAL

Every Louisvillian knows this city is special, and we have many reasons to love our hometown.

But today, as we unveil the first stage of the ambitious The Parklands of Floyds Fork, we have a new reason. This vision, when completed, will make Louisville home to the largest, most exciting new metropolitan park system in the nation.

Dan Jones’ vision in founding 21st Century Parks in 2004 was to create and preserve a system of new, world-class parks along Floyds Fork, while saving and enhancing the quality of that beautiful stream. Steve Henry’s visionary land-banking efforts along the fork in the early 1990s gave us a great head start.

Happily, our senior senator, Mitch McConnell, who, as county judge, had expanded our vast Jefferson Forest to become the nation’s largest urban forest, was intrigued by Dan’s plan. He went to work and obtained for us in 2005 a $38 million federal transportation appropriation to help build the parks roads, trails and bridges.

Since then, Gov. Beshear has obtained $10 million in state funding and “mayor-for-life” Jerry Abramson provided $1.5 million, for total government support of $49.5 million.

When The Parklands of Floyds Fork is complete, Louisvillians will have nearly 4,000 acres of recreational greenspace along the Floyds Fork watershed in eastern and southeastern Louisville. They’ll enjoy 100 miles of new trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, and 19 miles of canoe trails along Floyds Fork. There will be children’s playgrounds, “bark parks” and a 20-mile scenic park drive.

The Parklands will preserve nearly 80 percent of its land for natural landscape, creating vibrant urban wildlife habitat in the heart of Louisville. We’ll enjoy numerous facilities for family picnics, community events, fishing holes, canoe launches and ball fields. A nice bonus is that the work to complete The Parklands will create hundreds of jobs!

Dan named me treasurer, charged with raising private donations to complement our generous public support. Sen. McConnell’s remarkable assistance gave me hope that we could reach our goal I recruited a dynamic team of co-chairs, Jim Bloem, Chuck Denny, Sandra Frazier, Joe Pusateri and David Y. Wood, who in turn recruited 45 steering committee members. The results have been dramatic.

We have together raised $56.5 million from nearly 500 generous donors, including gifts of $1 mllion or more from the late Sara Shallenberger Brown, James Graham Brown Foundation, C.E. and S. Foundation, Sandra Frazier, Henry V. Heuser, Jr., Humana Foundation, PNC Foundation, Annette and John Schnatter, Thorntons Inc. and my family.

With public and private support now totaling $106 million, we are nearing our $113 million goal. Thirty-three million dollars has been spent on land acquisition, allowing us to obtain complete physical connectivity from Shelbyville Road to Bardstown Road, in voluntary transactions without any government condemnation!

The remaining $80 million will cover design and construction costs. All overhead costs are paid by my family.

This project is truly a unique and thoughtful public–private partnership. It can, and we hope will, become a model to rapidly urbanizing cities around the world.

To the countless individuals and organizations whose time, talents and treasure have brought us to this important moment, I offer my heartfelt thanks!

David A. Jones Sr. is the treasurer and a member of the board of directors of 21st Century Parks Inc.

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