A wonderful vision that may be escaping your attention is unfolding day by day. It’s a page right out of Frederick Law Olmsted’s playbook. He’s the guy who designed Central Park in New York City and the wonderful park system we enjoy so much here in Louisville.
The vision has evolved into a project called The Parklands of Floyds Fork, an incredibly ambitious public/private undertaking to develop a park system that traces Floyds Fork (“a classic Kentucky stream”) stretching all the way from Shelbyville Road to Bardstown Road. Ultimately, The Parklands will include four major parks linked by a paved drive.
This project is dear to my heart for several reasons. First and foremost, my father-in-law, William F. “Bill” Miles (now deceased), had a vision decades ago. He owned the land directly across from Valhalla Golf Club on Shelbyville Road. When he purchased the land, it was a deserted farm with small fishing lakes. Unfortunately, it was also a dumping ground for old toilets, junked cars and just about everything else nobody wanted. Bill, a turbo-charged environmentalist, along with David, his son, and others worked slavishly for years to restore the property. Ultimately, Bill decided the land was best suited to be a park of some sort. So, he sold the “farm” to the city for a fraction of its true value, with the stipulation that it be developed into a park and never be commercialized.
And so the “farm” began its existence as a park. Actually, it was more of a wannabe park without much in the way of attractions, and limited resources available for upgrades.
The Parklands challenge
Enter Dan Jones, his father, David Jones, and a host of Louisville’s biggest movers and shakers, including U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. Dan (chairman and CEO of 21st Century Parks — the folks working behind the scenes) saw the potential to do something special in Louisville that would make us the envy of larger cities across America, and he had the gumption to move forward.
Step one was the seemingly impossible task of starting at Shelbyville Road (with the “farm”), then progressing piece by piece, acquiring umpteen parcels of land, large and small, and connecting them all into The Parklands.
The acquisition process alone is an amazing feat that was accomplished much faster than I imagined. In fact, when I heard about this project a few years ago, my first thought was, “Gee, this is cool, but it’ll take decades to complete, and I will be long gone.” Boy, was I wrong. To this point, the project is moving at a rapid pace, reaching its goal of raising $120 million, providing the resources required to keep pushing forward.
OK, let me get more to the point about exercise opportunities that include biking, mountain biking, jogging, walking the paved drive and paths, hiking the trails, rollerblading and exercising with your dog. Dogs are welcome at the Dog Park, where your dog can run off-leash in either a big-dog or small-dog zone. Canoeing is another exercise option with routes ranging from one to three hours.
And there is a wide range of accessible options for people with disabilities.
There also are ball fields, fishing holes, children’s playgrounds and spraygrounds (with water sprinklers for hot summer days). The PNC Achievement Center houses a welcome center, an educational museum exhibit and two state-of-the-art classrooms.
Much has been accomplished, and there is lots going on, but I’m hardly touching the surface in this limited space. The best is yet to come.
The bottom line
My wife, Anita, and I exercise regularly in the park, and we are excited about someday biking the 40-mile Louisville Loop, which includes The Parklands. If you haven’t visited, please do.
And when you do, tell others. Let’s blow the lid off this well-kept secret. (For more information, go to TheParklands.org or call the office at 502-584-0350.)
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