With an assist from a dozen toddlers, ground was broken Monday morning on the first major piece of a $113 million, nearly 4,000-acre park along Floyds Fork in far eastern Jefferson County.

The start of work on the Creekside Playground “is the beginning of a visionary project that will add to Louisville’s strong legacy of parks and recreation for generations to come,” Mayor Jerry Abramson said, standing in the middle of a barren tract at Beckley Station and Wibble Hill roads where the playground will be developed.

The park system, recently named the Parklands of Floyds Fork by nonprofit sponsor 21st Century Parks Inc., will include four large park areas named for fork tributaries, from north to south —Beckley Creek, Pope Lick, Turkey Run and Broad Run parks.

The $1.9 million playground will be part of Beckley Creek Park, which will be the first area of the Parklands to undergo major development. Creekside Playground will have the latest swings, slides and climbing structures, a large sprayground with interactive elements, a picnic shelter, restrooms, parking and ornamental landscaping and stonework. The close proximity to Beckley Creek is intended to give the children a chance for environmental learning. The playground, expected to be completed next spring, will have equipment that can be accessed by the disabled, and it was designed in consultation with the Dream Foundation of Kentucky.

At Monday’s ceremony, 12 youngsters from the Wee-Care Nursery & Pre-school in Middletown stole the thunder from the shovel-wielding dignitaries. The children wore bright yellow plastic hardhats and used colorful little plastic shovels to pitch
dirt in all directions.

While the playground will be a centerpiece, other major work at the 616-acre Beckley Creek Park is scheduled to begin next spring and be completed by mid-2012, said Dan Jones, the 21st Century Parks chief executive officer.

Beckley Creek Park, which will incorporate the 130-acre Miles Park, will include the Egg Lawn, a 50-acre open space similar to the Great Lawn at Waterfront Park; a picnic pavilion; a dog park; a passive wetland the Gheens Foundation Lodge, which can be rented for private functions; an intepretive center with classroom and exhibit space; and the Grand Allee, containing an amphitheater and an event lawn for arts and crafts shows and festivals; an office for a park ranger; a small operations center; extensive trails; a tree-lined promenade; and at least three athletic fields. Work on the other three parks will be come in phases, with most of the facilities to be open around 2015. Jones said about 80 percent of the land will remain in its natural state.

The four parks will be interconnected and will be part of a 105-mile, multi-use path around the county’s outer perimeter called
the Louisville Loop.

Dan Jones said fundraising, led by his father, David Jones, a co-founder of Humana Inc., has now surpassed $100 million. But the search for money won’t stop until the goal of $113 million to fully
fund the Parklands is reached.

Nearly all the land acquisition, which includes efforts by the Future Fund headed by former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, Metro Parks and 21st Century Parks, is finished. The construction budget, including roads and infrastructure, is about $75 million, of which just over half is federal money secured several years ago by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at (502) 582-7089.

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