For Douglass Hills resident Rosie Hockersmith, the Creekside Sprayground and Playground in Beckley Creek Park offers more than an opportunity for her youngsters to beat the heat.
It also gives her a wooded setting where she can sit in the shade and stare into nearby forestry.
“It’s nice because you’re not staring at high-rises,” Hockersmith said, referring to other urban spraygrounds she’s visited.
Since the sprayground opened last year as the first phase of the Parklands of Floyds Fork project, it has seen more than 100,000 visitors, said Christen Boone, Parklands’ director of external relations. And more amenities are under way or planned at the Parklands that will eventually make it one of the largest park projects in the country, Boone said.
So far, the Creekside play area, near Shelbyville Road in Middletown, is the only Parklands amenity open to the public, Boone said. And according to visitors, it’s been a hit.
The play area’s cleanliness, proximity to nature and abundant shade keep Crestwood resident Amie Odom coming back despite a half-hour drive. Odom said her children are able to run between the sprayground and playground while she sits at a patio table under shade with friends.
“We need one of these in Oldham County,” she said.
The Parklands purchased Floyds Fork Park in Fisherville and William F. Miles Park in Middletown in 2010, and while portions of those parks are open, many areas are under construction.
New hiking and mountain-biking trails will begin opening in stages at the parks in November. Miles Park will soon feature more than two miles of the Louisville Loop, a pedestrian pathway that will eventually encircle most of Jefferson County. The ponds in Miles Park also are being improved, Boone said.
The PNC Achievement Center for Education will open in January in Beckley Creek Park. The building will have a visitor center, a natural history display and two classrooms available for school field trips and other functions. A nearby canoe launch will allow students to take short canoe trips during field trips to the park, Parklands Park Director Scott Martin said.
“The 4,000 acres of Parklands is where the learning will happen,” Boone said.
Work also is under way on the $2.5 million Gheens Foundation Lodge and community center. The lodge is slated to open in February and will have 11,000 square feet of space that will be available to rent for weddings and corporate and group functions. A new dog park will also open in February.
Work began last month on the Humana Grand Allee, a half-mile-long promenade shaded by a canopy of newly planted trees. The promenade will begin in the Legacy Commons, an area designated to recognize the many donors and partners who have supported The Parklands project. The area will include a permanent donor wall, perennial garden and courtyard large enough to accommodate an outdoor event for 100 guests.
The promenade will be completed by the end of 2013, Boone said.
Crews will break ground on the fourth and final phase of the project next year and expect to complete it in about two years. It will focus on the southernmost portion of the project and feature mostly passive development along about 11 miles of Floyds Fork, including Turkey Run and Broad Run parks. Plans call for trails, picnic areas, observation decks, sports fields, camping sites, canoe launches and a playground.
When completed, the Parklands will stretch from near Shelbyville Road to near Bardstown Road, along Floyds Fork, Boone said. It will have four separate parkland areas — Beckley Creek, Pope Lick, Turkey Run and Broad Run parks.
“We’re really beginning to tell the story of the Parklands and why it’s so special,” she said.
-Patrick T. Sullivan