For Toni Woodard, her workplace is one of her favorite places to be on her days off. That’s because her workplace happens to be The Parklands of Floyds Fork where she is the Director of Facilities and Hospitality. When she isn’t managing events, you can find Toni rollerblading down The Strand, hiking her favorite trails in Broad Run Park, or mountain biking though Turkey Run Park. Her love for the outdoors radiates through her work, from directing lost hikers back to their cars through a phone call to helping to create a memorable experience for event guests and first time Parklands visitors.
Considering that The Parklands is a far cry from rows of cramped cubicles and clicking keyboards, Toni describes her work atmosphere as a “huge gift.”
“Being in the events department, we have the balance between,” Toni explains about her weekly schedule. Her office is located inside a cabin in the solitude of Pope Lick Park, but she is never in one place for too long. With 11 rentable event spaces at The Parklands, Toni is constantly bouncing between parks to make sure that these venues are in tip-top condition. Weekends that feature events require Toni and others on the events team to sometimes work twelve to fifteen-hour days.
“This year we’ve done about 15 or 17 big 5k events, and that’s probably the most we’ve ever done,” Toni elucidates about her weekends at The Parklands. “But on a day like that, I’ll get here around five in the morning and we won’t get done until three or four in the afternoon. We’ve got such a great team—small, but mighty.”
Despite long days of heavy responsibility, Toni has, “found the perfect balance between city life and working for a really great organization. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Toni has a long history of park encounters, many of them being from the opposite side of the country. However, her experiences with The Parklands offer a different outdoor style than her previous Colorado home.
“I used to live in a very wide open, untamed public landscape. When I got to Louisville, I saw that you could have a public space that was sizable within a city, and still have an untamed experience,” Toni explains. “You can soak in nature within a city environment, and I didn’t understand that concept until I got here.”
The natural landscape of Kentucky can sometimes be misconstrued. When Toni’s friends from Colorado come to visit, they assume that Kentucky is made up of perfectly manicured bluegrass fields occupied by horses. This perception is amended when Toni takes them to visit The Parklands to offer an authentic picture of Kentucky’s natural environment.
“Showing them the nature here is really neat; they just love this type of environment and I had no idea about it either,” Toni recounts, “It’s very arid and high mountain in Colorado. The amount of water here, with all of the creeks and rivers, really intrigues me.”
The ecosystem of The Parklands endlessly allows for unique nature experiences to transpire in front of visitors. With Toni’s extensive time at the parks, she inevitably has a long list of wildlife encounters and eyewitness accounts of Mother Nature’s handiwork. While in Turkey Run Park one early morning, she enjoyed the company of about forty deer roaming in the field behind Hockensmith Barn.
“Everyone looked at me and they’re so used to having us here, they were just like, ‘Oh hi Toni!’” Although Toni regards all of her nature experiences as meaningful, one of her favorite memories is coming upon an immense party of fireflies after everyone had departed an evening event. “It had just rained, and then it was really warm and humid. It rivaled thunder, but in fireflies,” she reminisced.
One of the most surprising aspects of The Parklands to Toni when she first joined the team is the level of thought and detail put into every part of the parks. “In every space, everything is so intentionally done, but yet it’s so subtly done,” Toni said. “So much thought was put into the creation and the landscape, and everything continues to be so well thought out.”
The legacy of each piece of The Parklands comes from the people that derive unparalleled meaning from the parks—people like Toni.