It’s not often you get to see a huge park being created, essentially under your very feet. Indeed, many “parks” cropping up nowadays are merely small green spaces with a playground and maybe a quarter-mile walking path. Sure, these are better than parking lots or shopping malls, but not much use to runners.
But I’ve had the great fortune of watching the development of The Parklands at Floyd’s Fork, part of the Louisville Loop. The Louisville Loop is an ongoing project to create a 100-mile pedestrian and bike path around the city. The project started several years ago and continues to make progress — despite not being complete, you can still make your way along large parts of it.
One of those pieces of the loop is The Parklands. It started with an old, rundown soccer park and a former sod farm — and is now six miles of awesome. Private donors, notably the founder of Humana, have contributed millions to the project.
I have the distinction — unless I’m going to get in trouble for saying this in print, in which case it never happened — of running end-to-end of the current section, Pope Lick Park to Miles Park. The disclaimer is because much of the path is “closed to the public,” but find me a runner who won’t dodge a barricade to pursue a new path.
By fall, this section will be open entirely. It is 6 miles one way, with about 500 feet of climb in one direction. It’s a combination of concrete and blacktop path, cutting through woods and fields.
The Parklands will extend more than this 6 mile section, however, with the next 14 mile section set to open in 2015. More trails, more paved paths, more canoe points, more awesome.
The Parklands will include four major parks linked by a park drive. When complete, there will be 20 miles of paved path, 100 miles of gravel and dirt paths and 19 miles of canoe trail.
Nearly 80 percent of the natural landscape will be preserved through the park, creating a “urban habitat corridor” linking scattered fragments of forest. The park will protect 25 species of reptiles and amphibians, 40 species of fish, 20 species of rare freshwater mussels, 19 species of mammals, 138 species of birds and 450 species of native plants.
It is simply amazing to see the amount of work happening. When you dodge all the barricades, you can see so much in action. Bridge construction, paving construction, tree plantings — endless work to make this project something very, very special.
The Parklands cut through the last major undeveloped section of Metro Louisville and are inspired by Louisville’s Olmstead Parks system. Frederick Law Olmstead — who designed New York’s Central and Prospect Parks — came to Louisville in the 1890s and created a ring of parks and parkways that remain one of the city’s most remarkable assets. Being able to run through any of the Olmstead Parks is reason enough to take up running — in fact, as a new runner, one of my goals was to be able to run the entire 8-mile loop that includes Seneca and Cherokee Parks.
Olmstead’s vision was to bring nature in to neighborhoods — and The Parklands do just that, preserving an amazing greenspace for generations to come.
The Parklands is a public/private partnership with $120 million in construction costs. 21st Century Parks completed a $120 million capital campaign, including $60 million from local individuals, corporations and foundations. Federal, state and local appropriations funded the remainder.
In total, The Parklands at Floyd’s Fork will be 4,000 acres. But, park developers have developed a campaign that tells people this isn’t just a “park.”
“This is going to be yours. This is a commitment to be something bigger than ourselves.”
I am delighted, excited, ecstatic to live in a city that would put priority on a project like this. As the park brochure says, “This is going to be great.”
In fact, it already is.