Work officially began Wednesday on a strategic phase of the Parklands of Floyds Fork, amid pronouncements that the 27-mile-long park will be an unrivaled urban recreational corridor when completed about 2015.
The work, costing $15 million, will feature a half-mile-long promenade shaded by a canopy of newly planted trees and named the Humana Grand Allee, pronounced al-lay, in honor of the $8 million that Humana, its foundation and its employees have donated to the 3,700-acre Parklands project in far eastern Jefferson County.
“This is a magnificent project. … You can see it happening. It will be one heck of a beautiful place to come,” Gov. Steve Beshear said at a news conference along Floyds Fork off Beckley Station Road. “I think no park system in the world will be as good.” He said he expects the Parklands to be a major attraction for businesses considering locating in Louisville.
Retired Humana co-founder David Jones and his son, Dan Jones, CEO of the 21st Century Parks group working on the Parklands, said they are within a whisker of the goal of $113 million needed to acquire the rest of the land and fully develop the project.
David Jones, the 21st Century Parks treasurer and the Parklands chief fundraiser, said he expects the official capital campaign to end soon. But after that, he said, he hopes to raise $50 million more for an endowment to maintain the Parklands to ease the strain on the public sector. He said $10 million in the endowment has already been banked.
The Parklands will stretch from near Shelbyville Road to near Bardstown Road, along Floyds Fork. It will have four separate parkland areas — Beckley Creek, Pope Lick, Turkey Run and Broad Run parks.
Some development at the north end of the Parklands is completed, including the city-funded Creekside Playground, soccer fields, two miles of the Louisville Loop shared-use path, a bridge over the creek and some roads. About 30,000 trees have been planted.
Other development is in progress near Beckley Station and is expected to be completed next spring. It includes the Gheens Foundation Lodge, the PNC Achievement Center for Education, and the 17-acre Egg Lawn, an open area planned for various events.
The latest phase will complete most of the development in Beckley Creek and Pope Lick parks, including incorporating the existing Floyds Fork Park. The major work is scheduled to be completed in about a year.
The Grand Allee promenade will have a small Legacy Commons with a Parklands donor wall and space along the south end of the walkway where nearly 150 booths or tents could be set up for events, Dan Jones said. Part of the promenade will be lined with a low stone fence, and it will pass a large wetlands area.
Other features will include picnic groves, sports fields, four more miles of the loop, plus five additional miles of trails.
Mayor Greg Fischer described the progress as “amazing,” adding that, once fully developed, “it will have so many parts to it that it will take individuals years to uncover all the delights.”
Nearly all the land is under the control of 21st Century Parks, Metro Parks or the Future Fund, which was founded by former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was able to secure $38 million in federal funds for the Parklands. He said in a release that the Parklands “will give Louisville an innovative system of parks unmatched anywhere in the country. David and Dan Jones have been true champions for the city.”