In Conversation

Louisville parks officials talked about the status of the city’s parks systems and how Metro Government’s impending budget shortfall will affect them on WFPL’s in Conversation Friday.

Joining us were:

  • Louisville Parks and Recreation Parks Administrator Bennett Knox
  • Louisville Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Ben Johnson
  • Olmsted Conservancy President Layla George
  • Parklands of Floyds Fork President David Morgan

Louisville is home to more than 120 parks, and has one of four systems in the country with parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted — the father of American landscape architecture.

But this year, a looming budget shortfall prompted the city to close public pools and impose budget cuts across government departments. Funding from Papa John’s and former University of Louisville football player Jamon Brown allowed the city to launch an alternative swimming plan this summer.

Olmsted Conservancy President Layla George said the cuts will also have a ripple effect on her organization.  

“The budget cuts will not affect our organization directly, but as the private partner to the public parks department it certainly affects our partner,” George said. “[That] compels us to dig a little deeper and see if we can do more.” George added that vandalism is a huge problem for the parks system.

An analysis by the Trust for Public Land, a California-based nonprofit aimed at creating parks and protecting lands for people, ranked Louisville’s parks 81st out of those in the 100 largest U.S. cities. That organization said Louisville fell behind a majority of cities because its parks are not close to a majority of residents and because the city invests less in its parks than most others do.

Parklands of Floyds Fork President President David Morgan said Louisville’s parks will continue to improve.

“One of the things that has struck us and our entire team is how deeply connected people get with it,” Morgan said of the Parklands. “I think the connectivity and access within 10 minutes’ walk will ultimately continue to improve over the years and our score will go up.”

Louisville Parks and Recreation Parks Administrator Bennett Knox said they will rely on partnerships with organizations like the Olmsted Conservancy to maintain parks and resources, but Louisville Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Ben Johnson said park visitors must help by reporting park vandalism.

“The last thing we need to do is spend money over again. [The parks] are tough to maintain as it is,” Johnson said.

Join us next week on In Conversation, when we talk about jail overcrowding.

There’s a lot going on in Louisville, and WFPL’s “In Conversation” with Rick Howlett gives people a platform to talk — both to each other, and with the larger community — about the biggest issues facing our city, state and region. Live at 11 a.m. every Friday on 89.3 WFPL. Call 502-814-TALK to join the conversation.

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