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Abramson unveils 'City of Parks' vision

Tuesday February 22, 2005

ABRAMSON UNVEILS 'CITY OF PARKS' VISION
Thousands of acres, 100-mile trail build on Olmsted heritage 

'Greenprint' Map

LOUISVILLE (Feb. 22, 2005) – Mayor Jerry Abramson announced a $20 million initiative today that will create a wealth of new recreational opportunities across the community and make Louisville Metro a “City of Parks.” 
         
Abramson announced a far-reaching “greenprint” for Louisville, a multi-year vision that includes the addition of at least 2,000 acres of park land in the Floyds Fork watershed, continued expansion of Jefferson Memorial Forest, a hiking trail around the Louisville Metro perimeter, and a major upgrade of the city’s existing parks. 
         
It will be the largest expansion of the community’s park system since the expansion of Jefferson Memorial Forest in the 1970s. 
         
Thanks to major contributions from Humana Inc. co-founder and chairman David A. Jones, his family and others, a significant portion of the land needed for the expansion already has been acquired. Jones will lead a fundraising effort to continue buying land. 
         
Already known nationally for the majesty of its public parks, Louisville Metro is embarking on a new park land project as ambitious and grand as what came before, Abramson said. “A century ago, world-renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted laid out his plans for Louisville’s first park system, a superb network of green spaces linked together by tree-lined parkways that became one of his greatest achievements,” he said. 
         
“Mr. Olmsted’s excellent parks continue to serve as a major asset in our city’s quality of life. Now the time has come for us to revisit that tradition of excellence and extend his great vision to all parts of our community. Residential growth continues strong in the Floyds Fork area. We have a window of opportunity to preserve land there for our children and for generations to come. 
         
“At the same time we must also live up to the legacy Mr. Olmsted created by making our existing parks the very best they can be.” Abramson emphasized that the City of Parks initiative will take years to complete. 
         
Jones leads partnership to raise funds
The mayor praised Jones’ leadership in developing a public-private partnership, greatly reducing the project’s reliance on public funds. “We could not have begun this important journey without the generosity and deep personal commitment of David Jones, his son Dan, and the rest of the Jones family,” the mayor said. 
         
“We also appreciate and respect the foresight and community-mindedness of Dr. Steve Henry,” Abramson said, referring to the former lieutenant governor and Jefferson County commissioner who helped create a land-conservation foundation, Future Fund, buying hundreds of acres along Floyds Fork in the 1990s. 
         
David Jones and his family have committed $5 million to the City of Parks effort. They consider this an opportunity to do for 21st century Louisville what the Olmsted parks did for the 20th century. Jones has also committed to raising another $15 million from a variety of private and public sources. 
         
Abramson also announced that the James Graham Brown Foundation just last week made a commitment to this effort in the amount of $3 million. And Sara Shallenberger Brown has made a $1 million gift to the project. 
         
The mayor said he will propose $1 million to $2 million in the Louisville Metro budget for each of the next few years. 
         
The public will have a chance to pitch in too. A non-profit organization, 21st Century Parks, has been formed and is seeking federal 501(c)(3) status in order to accept tax-deductible donations. In the interim, the Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy will accept donations. 
         
The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land-conservation organization, has been instrumental to the initiative, helping negotiate with landowners on behalf of Metro Parks in both the Floyds Fork corridor and the Forest. 
         
Effort includes park upgrades, new parks, loop trail
Besides adding new park land, Abramson said Louisville Metro is investing in its existing parks as well. Since merger took place in January 2003, Metro Parks has completed 67 construction and enhancement projects totaling more than $16 million, including a major restoration of the Iroquois Amphitheater, upgrades of Shawnee Park’s “Dirt Bowl” basketball courts, improvements to Sun Valley Park’s soccer fields, and new playgrounds in several parks, such as Charlie Vettiner Park and Riverview Park. More than 100 additional projects are planned or already under way in parks all over town. 
         
In the Floyds Fork corridor, nearly 2,000 acres have been acquired or put under option, with more to come. The corridor will include several major “nodes” for future parks, linked by additional green space. 
         
The City of Parks plan includes a hiking and bicycling trail that will eventually form a loop around the entire county – 100 miles or more in length – and connect Olmsted parks along existing parkways. 
         
Abramson said many of the concepts contained in the City of Parks initiative were envisioned n Cornerstone 2020, the comprehensive land-use plan adopted in 2000. Louisville and Jefferson County were projected to need over 8,800 acres of new park land by the year 2020. The subsequent merger of city and county governments helped make the project feasible, he said. 
         
“A little over two years ago we united our government, and the greenprint we present today will unite our neighborhoods and our people, with a trail that will help connect all parts of our community,” Abramson said. 
         
“Parks draw people together who might not otherwise encounter one another, bridging the gaps between city and suburb, between rich and poor, between white and black. Parks raise property values and make our community more attractive to new residents, businesses and visitors. Parks preserve irreplaceable landscapes. Parks give our kids a place to play, and they allow each of us to take a break from the daily hustle and bustle.” 
         
Many details about the City of Parks effort have yet to be determined, such as the specific uses of any new land and the extent and timing of the expansion of Jefferson Memorial Forest. Abramson said the public will have a chance to give its input at future meetings. But while the project may take as many as 15 years to complete, he said, he wanted to announce the effort now, in order to build community support and involvement. 
         
David Jones said he got involved because Louisville is his hometown, and he believes in the lasting value of a well-planned park system. "By acting now," he said, "we can acquire and preserve land along the Floyds Fork corridor and at the same time encourage adjacent development that is in keeping with the vibrant Olmsted park neighborhoods. If we don't act now, we will lose this wonderful opportunity.” 
         
Dr. Henry said: "Growth is fundamentally changing the character of our community. Future Fund is dedicated to green spaces and good planning. I support development but I want it to happen in a way that protects what green spaces we have left. Land set aside for parks and open spaces is the smart way to grow our city. I truly appreciate the many people who have supported our efforts over the years, especially Mr. Jones and his family. I want to especially thank Mary Bingham, a special lady who believed in this project from the beginning." 
         
Denise Schlener, Director of the Trust for Public Land’s Chesapeake and Central Appalachians Field Office, praised Louisville for being more aggressive than other U.S. cities in improving its parks. “The path-breaking land conservation efforts announced today put Louisville in a league of its own nationally,” she said. “As Louisville did a century ago when Frederick Law Olmsted was asked to design a world-class park system for a growing population, today’s leaders are acting now to ensure that future generations will have parks, streams, and forests to enjoy forever.” 
         
For graphic images, a detailed map and other information, please visit www.metro-parks.org or dial MetroCall at 311 or (502) 574-5000 / 574-4091 (tdd).