Norman Parker says he remembers a time when Louisville was tearing out the playgrounds and benches in the parks around the California neighborhood.
But on Friday — more than a decade later — Mayor Greg Fischer, the Olmsted Conservancy and neighbors cut the ribbon on a $1.1 million revitalization project at Victory Park in that neighborhood.
The 4.4 acre park now boasts a new playground, splash pad, walking path, basketball court and other amenities.
Parker was among community leaders who helped guide the project.
“The park is the heartbeat of the neighborhood,” Parker said. “And so to be a part of what it is now, to see them making investments, and to see them making it where the kids can come and play, that alone speaks to the change of the neighborhood.”
With funding from community partners, the Olmsted Parks Conservancy and Louisville Parks and Recreation worked with neighbors to design a park for the neighborhood, by the neighborhood.
Residents had a hand at nearly every point in the decision-making process, Parker said.
“What Olmsted went in and implemented was what the community voiced their opinion on,” he said.
The improvements at Victory Park are part of the city’s larger plan to reinvest in west Louisville. Fischer said that includes about a billion dollars in investment — the most in generations.
“I think in many ways this renovation is a reminder of what’s going on in west Louisville these days,” he said.
Victory Park is also just one of a number of other parks that have recently received, or are undergoing renovations. New playgrounds are being installed or were recently installed at Boone Square, Algonquin and Elliott Square Park.
Tyler Park in east Louisville is currently undergoing its own $1.1 million renovation. Last year, workers completed the Bonnycastle Pavilion at Cherokee Park.
Parker also said the changes at Victory Park underscore the progress the city has made in the West End. People are already using the park more than in the past, he said.
And he says that’s important, because the park is a community space.
“The park is where people come together in times when they’re sad, happy, celebrating, mourning,” Parker said. “No matter what we’re dealing with, whether it’s a loss, a death, a celebration of life, a birth, we utilize the park.”
Project donors included the Humana Foundation, James Graham Brown Foundation, Kosair Charities and PNC Foundation, Brown Forman Foundation and GE Appliances.
This post has been updated.