One of the most important developments in the country broke ground in Louisville in May 2011. The sheer size of the park system planned along Floyds Fork and the implications on the built form of the city. The the first phase of the massive new parks system called the Parklands of Floyds Fork includes the 616-acre Beckley Creek Park in eastern Jefferson County that is expected to open in 2013. Work has been progressing on the project, including bridges over Floyds Fork like the one above.
Here’s part of a story on the project I wrote for The Architect’s Newspaper from last December:
Like most cities, growth in Louisville, KY continues to push out to the city’s suburban fringe, eating up undeveloped land surrounding the city. Recognizing the pristine farms and woodlands that would otherwise be developed into ubiquitous suburban housing tracts, a group of civic and business leaders headed up by Dan Jones organized the non-profit 21st Century Parks in 2005 to undertake one of the nation’s largest new park projects to protect over 3,700 acres of prime land along a winding watershed. The so-called Parklands of Floyds Fork will encompass four large, distinct parks—each named for a tributary to the waterway—designed by Philadelphia-based landscape architects WRT, formerly Wallace Roberts & Todd.
Building off a rich parks legacy in Louisville that brought about three large parks and dozens of smaller projects a century earlier by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. and his successors, The Parklands hopes to redefine the fringe conditions of a growing city. “This park is similarly developed on the fringe as were the Olmsted parks,” said WRT Principal Ignacio Bunster-Ossa. Since then, the area surrounding Olmsted’s parks has filled in. “Where will Louisville be in 100 years?”
The Parklands is one of the most important projects in Louisville history as it affords an opportunity to reevaluate development on the city’s edge. The series of parks by themselves and the land they protect will be an enormous boon to the city, but the chance to affect change in how we build our communities for miles around the park could position Louisville to be more competitive in the future. Whether we’re resigned to add more suburban sprawl that already chokes the urban periphery or whether we grow in a smarter pattern will have major impacts on Louisville’s quality of life.