Wildfire black gum, Happy Returns Daylily, Azure Bluet, Snowdrops, American White Water Lily, Turtlehead, Marsh Seedbox, Nuttall’s Oak, Swamp White Oak, Princeton American Elm, Bald Cypress, Appalachian Redbud, American Yellowwood, Hummingbird Sweet Pepperbush.
The names roll off the tongue with a rhythm that reflects the rollicking walk that is The Humana Grand Allee (pronounced al·lée) on a summer’s day. Start from the north on Humana Legacy Commons, where we thank the many donors who made The Parklands possible. Move south along the Country Walk, with its dry laid stone walls. Cross the Allee Wetlands, where spring peepers roar in March, turtles bask and dragonflies hover, to end finally at the Festival Promenade, where there might be, or if not, soon will be, an art fair or a farmer’s market or a festival underway.
The vision of The Humana Grand Allee was to create a different kind of place: more formal, richly botanical, varied, along which couples could stroll, or rest on a bench, or a family could peer over the wetlands rail to spot lotus flowers and fish. Those ranked trees lining each side will someday curve overhead to form a shady canopy, because growing a park is not like constructing a building—it takes decades for the designer’s vision to mature.
Around the Allee curve trails—the Louisville Loop, the Black Willow Trail—that combine with the central promenade to form what we challenged our architects to create: the “best walk in Louisville.” Mix and match them for different distances, or time frames, or experiences. These paths—all relatively flat and accessible, trace the edges of Floyds Fork, dip into streamside forests, and pass through meadows that will someday, when the trees we planted last year are grown, be an oak savannah with large spreading branches tracing the hillside. When you walk the Allee, it’s meant to be a place of activity, but also at times, a space of quiet. For those with the interest, it is a rich botanical garden; for those who just want to appreciate it, it’s a burst of color, from flowers in spring and summer to the “wildfire” autumn blaze of black gum leaves along the Country Walk.
In sum, it is another in the unfolding series of moments, the diverse collection of special places, some natural, some built, which comprise The Parklands. It will take a while to find them all, if it’s even possible, and to unravel the mysteries of the natural and human stories (can you solve the riddle of the sculpture named “450,021,211” that makes up the fountain on the Legacy Commons?) that by history and by intention, make this such a magical public park. While there are many points to start your exploration, the Humana Grand Allee is a great one from which to begin, or if you’ve already been to other sites, to continue, your journey, while enjoying the outdoors, exercise, and the wonderful natural history of this special place.
About the Author
A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Dan holds degrees from Yale University (B.A., M.F.) and Indiana University, Bloomington (Ph.D.). He has spent much of his working life in the fields of education and business management. In addition to founding and managing his own business, he taught World History and the History of the American West at the University of Louisville, and most recently, an Honors Seminar entitled “Reading the Natural Landscape.” In 2004, he founded 21st Century Parks, Inc. a nonprofit corporation created to bring fresh vision to the development and preservation of new public parklands. Their current project, The Parklands of Floyds Fork, is one of the largest new metropolitan parks projects in the country: almost 4000 acres of new, donor-supported public park system in the last major undeveloped section of Metro Louisville. Dan is the founder of 21st Century Parks/The Parklands and currently serves as the Board Chair, where he oversees fundraising, planning, design, construction, and operations of the new parks. He is married, with four children, and enjoys hiking, camping and fishing with his family, skiing, running, and reading.