A private foundation will give The Parklands of Floyds Fork $3 million for conservation projects in the nearly 4,000-acre privately-funded public park. The Parklands announced the grant Thursday, and said it believes the gift is the single largest for urban conservation in Kentucky history.
The grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will allow The Parklands to restore large areas of land to their natural ecosystems, creating planned wilderness spaces in the parks. Parks Director Scott Martin said the goal is to create landscapes that are uniquely Kentucky.
“So we provide just fantastic, almost wilderness-like, but definitely wild and authentically Kentucky experiences to folks that will be suddenly within 20 minutes of an experience [for which] they might previously have had to go to Mammoth Cave or Red River Gorge,” he said.
A lot of the conservation work will be done in The Parklands’ two southern parks, which are scheduled to be open to the public later this year. Martin said a lot of that land has been used for agricultural purposes in the past, and the money will help return them to meadows, riparian areas and forests.
“A number of them have gone back to some degree of forest but the bulk of them are significantly impaired by invasive species, such as the Bush honeysuckle that we all know so well,” Martin said. “Or, frankly, coming in fescue and the grasses that are not native to our community.”
The grant will allow The Parklands to plant 32,000 native trees, and restore about 80 acres of land to native meadows and prairies. It will also establish a habitat conservation initiative for the endangered Kentucky Glade Cress—a plant that’s native only to Jefferson County.
Martin said the deed for The Parklands includes restrictions requiring the lands be protected in perpetuity as a public park. And that deed will be amended to require that the conservation areas be kept as such forever, too.
“We see it in parks all over the place: it’s death by a thousand good intentions,” Martin said. “Someone gets the idea 50 years from now that we need jet pack baseball where you’ve planted a forest. Well, to achieve your hundred-year conservation goals, you’ve got to protect that forest planting when you do it, protect those other natural areas.”
The Parklands of Floyds Fork will include four distinct parks when all are complete. Two are already open, and the remaining two are scheduled to open this year. The parks are open to the public for free, and are funded entirely through private donations and foundation support.