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With its stylized system of roads and concourses, music court, lily pond, and carefully arranged border plantings, Shawnee was the most formal of Frederick Law Olmsted’s large, pastoral parks.
The mission of Olmsted Parks Conservancy is to restore, enhance and forever protect Louisville’s Olmsted-designed parks and parkways, connecting nature and neighborhood while strengthening our community’s well-being.
The early 20th century witnessed the flourishing of parks in Louisville, thanks to the grand designs of Frederick Law Olmsted, the Father of American Landscape Architecture, and his sons who followed him. Eventually 18 parks and 6 parkways were completed under the direction of the Olmsted firm. Their influence permeated the developing city, including designs for civic institutions (the grounds of the public library and the University of Louisville campus are examples, as well as the landscapes of many private homes).
By the mid-20th century however, the parks — which are such an integral element of the structure of the city — fell into disrepair. The construction of an interstate highway through Cherokee and Seneca Parks in the 1960s caused great disruption. And Force 5 tornadoes in April of 1974 tore through the city, compounding the destruction in the parks, uprooting mature hardwood trees and destroying the environment so carefully planned by Olmsted.
Concerned citizens in the late 1970s launched a grass-roots effort, “The Friends of Olmsted Parks,” to call attention to the worrisome loss of a great city asset. Louisville took notice. After reviewing a report on park conditions prepared by the Friends, Mayor Jerry Abramson established a task force which, in 1989, recommended the creation of Louisville’s Olmsted Parks Conservancy to protect and restore this great public resource.
Since 1989, working as a partner with Louisville Metro Parks, Olmsted Parks Conservancy has raised $30 million to fund park improvements in the Frederick Law Olmsted Parks System with four areas of focus: historic preservation, environmental protection, park user amenities and advocacy.
Louisville’s Frederick Law Olmsted Parks are our health clubs and art studios, our outdoor classrooms, sports facilities and family retreats. They play a vital role in protecting the city’s health and well-being and they provide common ground for celebrating cultural diversity. The parks enhance Louisville’s quality of life.
Without attention and support, the value this great asset will decline. It takes hard work, funding, and community interest to preserve this resource. Olmsted Parks Conservancy leads the movement to enhance and restore these resources, and invites the community to realize its stake in the future of our Frederick Law Olmsted Parks. Find out how you can help support us.