The donor fountain at The Humana Legacy Commons is not just a wonderful sculpture, but also an interpretive leap into the natural history of The Parklands of Floyds Fork. Named for a number, “450,021,211” it is meant to be interactive and to challenge you to understand the basic natural history that surrounds you while you are in The Parklands. If you unravel its mysteries, decoding the visual vocabulary in its four panels and the scattered independent representations of plants and animals in the rocks and water that surround the panels, you will have a solid foundation in the underlying science you need to interpret your surroundings.
Our talented naturalist, Michael Gaige, succinctly summarized its meaning this way:
“One way to understand Floyds Fork landscape is to think of it in terms of one, very large number: 450,021,211. This numeral, which you might want to keep in mind when thinking about the natural history of The Fork, is actually a grouping of numbers with a set of implied concepts to match each one.
450,000,000: The biggest chunk of the number references the time of the formation of all the limestone, dolomite, and shale rocks of The Fork. It’s called the Ordovician, a distinct period of the Paleozoic Era, following the Cambrian and followed by the Silurian. It was defined by Charles Lapworth in 1879 and adopted officially by the International Geological Congress in 1906. It is named after the Celtic tribe of the Ordovices who lived in Great Britain prior to its invasion by the Romans. During this time Kentucky was a shallow sea at 20º south of the Equator. Fishes were just evolving and no life had yet colonized land.
21,000: The next group of numbers refers to the maximum extent of the most recent glaciation. Over a 2.5 million year period, called the Pleistocene, Earth has gone through many glacial and interglacial periods. At 21,000 years ago, the most recent glacial period, ice reached southern Indiana. During an earlier glacial advance, ice reached, and in fact formed, the Ohio River. Lying less than 200 miles from the continental ice sheet, Louisville occurred on the edge of the tundra, likely in a scattered-spruce environment with large mammals such as mammoths and mastodons. By 15,000 years ago the ice was melting fast. Soon, tree species would arrive from the south, giving rise to our temperate deciduous forest.
200: This refers to the approximate years that have passed since European-American colonization. This marked the beginning of a major time of transition, during which the Native American population died out, largely; the landscape was deforested, animals became extinct (including bison, wolves and cougar), and the terrain was dramatically modified.
10: Ten years is a solid, human-sized time frame for understanding certain aspects of ecology, such as succession and the cycling swings of climate, acorn mast years, wildlife population busts and booms. It is a good scale for observing change.
01: One reflects the seasonal cycle of nature. All life operates on this annual cycle: climate, flowers, animals, humans.
If you can remember this number, and what its various subsets mean, you have at your command a basic natural history of Floyds Fork.”
Take a walk to the fountain today, unravel the specimens in each sculptured panel, puzzle over the number, and begin your own journey into the amazing natural landscape that surrounds you in The Parklands of Floyds Fork.
About the Author
A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Dan holds degrees from Yale University (B.A., M.F.) and Indiana University, Bloomington (Ph.D.). He has spent much of his working life in the fields of education and business management. In addition to founding and managing his own business, he taught World History and the History of the American West at the University of Louisville, and most recently, an Honors Seminar entitled “Reading the Natural Landscape.” In 2004, he founded 21st Century Parks, Inc. a nonprofit corporation created to bring fresh vision to the development and preservation of new public parklands. Their current project, The Parklands of Floyds Fork, is one of the largest new metropolitan parks projects in the country: almost 4000 acres of new, donor-supported public park system in the last major undeveloped section of Metro Louisville. Dan is the founder of 21st Century Parks/The Parklands and currently serves as the Board Chair, where he oversees fundraising, planning, design, construction, and operations of the new parks. He is married, with four children, and enjoys hiking, camping and fishing with his family, skiing, running, and reading.