Nearly all the money needed has been raised and all the land procured for the massive Parklands of Floyds Fork project, one of the nation’s largest urban parks development.
The sponsors, headed by the nonprofit 21st Century Parks, have assembled about 3,700 acres for the project. And primarily through the leadership of Humana Inc. co-founder David Jones, $110 million of the $113 million budgeted for land purchases and improvements has been raised. An additional $13 million has been banked to maintain the linear park, envisioned as a suburban counterpart to Louisville’s urban park and parkway system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted a century ago.
Christen Boone, spokeswoman for 21st Century Parks, said the organization is confident of raising the full $113 million by the end of the summer. If need be, some of the endowment funds could be transferred to the budget, but that isn’t anticipated, she said. Contracts covering $18 million in work have been let for the project’s first phase, which is along Floyds Fork near Interstate 64 in far eastern Jefferson County.
The project, a recreation corridor along 27 miles of the creek between Shelbyville and Bardstown roads, is within budget and on schedule for completion by the target date of 2015, said Dan Jones, the Humana founder’s son and 21st Century Parks’ chief executive officer.
The senior Jones recalled getting an emotional lift from what he saw when he joined members of the 21st Century Parks board of directors last fall in touring some of the early construction along the creek.
“We walked on the first few feet of road to encircle the Egg Lawn, saw the early beams on the bridges spanning Floyds Fork, and visited the site of the future buildings. It was inspiring to see the beginning of what will become a treasured park for generations of Louisvillians to follow,” he said.
“This is truly the most important civic projects of my lifetime. We are looking forward to opening these new amenities … for so many to enjoy.”All of the land needed for the Parklands is now under the control of either 21st Century Parks or two kindred organizations — Louisville Metro Parks and the nonprofit Future Fund land bank. Dan Jones said no additional parcels are being sought at this point, but more land may be purchased, if it is suitable and becomes available.
Some work — including building a wet playground, developing eight fishing ponds, breaking up a logjam on the creek and planting 50,000 trees — has already been completed, or soon will be. Most of that work has been along Beckley Station Road near I-64 in the northernmost section of the Parklands, called Beckley Creek Park. South of there, three more large parks will be developed — Pope Lick, Turkey Run and Broad Run.
Work now under way, or expected to start soon, and scheduled for completion by mid-2013 includes:The William F. Miles Trailhead at the former Miles Park; it will include parking, a garden, restrooms, a fountain and historical markers.
Developing 2.1 miles of the Louisville Loop south of Shelbyville Road. The loop is envisioned as a 105-mile recreational path around metro Louisville. The 19-acre Egg Lawn just south of I-64 along the west side of Floyds Fork. The large oval, similar to the layout of the sports fields at Seneca Park off Cannons Lane, will be ringed by a walking path, with parking and a dog park nearby. The Creekside Center, just south of the Egg Lawn, will be where facilities are concentrated. “It will be the busiest place in the whole thing,” Dan Jones said. “People will be doing all kinds of things there.”
Work has begun on the $2.5 million Gheens Foundation Lodge and community center; it should open in early 2013 with 11,000 square feet of space. The lodge will be available for rent for weddings and corporate and group functions. Also under construction at the Creekside Center is the $1.2 million PNC Achievement Center for Education and Interpretation. It, too, is due to be completed in early 2013. The center will have 4,000 square feet of space, including classrooms for school field trips and camps. The Creekside Center will also have a large picnic pavilion and a butterfly garden. Two additional phases of work will follow, eventually extending the Parklands to Bardstown Road. They are budgeted to cost $13 million and $31 million, Dan Jones said.
The second phase, south of the Creekside Center, will incorporate the old Floyds Fork Park and feature the new Pope Lick Park. Amenities will include a half-mile-long, 100-foot-wide Grand Allee, designed for fairs and festivals. The phase also includes completion of six more miles of the Louisville Loop. Most of the work should be under way this summer and completed by late 2013, Dan Jones said. The last phase, the southernmost section of the Parklands, should be under construction in 2013 and take about two years to complete. It will feature mostly passive development along about 11 miles of Floyds Fork and include Turkey Run and Broad Run parks. Plans call for trails, picnic areas, observation decks, sports fields, camping sites, canoe launches and a playground.
The $110 million raised so far includes $38 million in federal money secured by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., along with $10 million from the state and $1.5 million from the city. In addition, more than $60 million in private funds has been raised by David Jones and friends, including $14 million from the Jones family, $8.2 million from the James Graham Brown Foundation and $8 million from the late Sara Shallenberger Brown.