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A New Look at Park Equity – What Does it Mean for the Olmsted Parks?

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February 1, 2023

Last week, the Parks Alliance of Louisville unveiled the Parks For All initiative, a new plan to increase funding and prioritize equity in our city parks. The plan was developed with support from a local project team which includes Olmsted Parks Conservancy President and CEO Layla George.

The initiative proposes a 15-year plan to increase city funding to public parks, prioritizing parks most in need of investment based on population density, historic inequities, environmental injustices, and health and wellness. The top priority sites include eight Olmsted Parks: Baxter Square, Wayside Park, Boone Square, Central Park, Stansbury Park, Algonquin Park, Elliott Park and Shelby Park. While the Parks for All initiative will help us advocate for increased city funding for parks, Olmsted Parks Conservancy does not receive any direct funding associated with the study. Louisville Parks and Recreation will continue to mow the grass and empty the trash in your neighborhood park, but they don’t remove invasive honeysuckle so woodlands can thrive, care for pollinator gardens or formal plantings, or connect with park neighbors in the same way we do. Support from our members is still crucial to ensure our Olmsted Parks receive the care and attention they deserve.

Olmsted Parks Conservancy has always raised money from generous donors like you to bridge the gap between city funding and the full funding that the parks need. Since the merger in 2003, our organization has overseen over $50 million worth of park improvements. We strive for equity across all the Olmsted Parks, including those earmarked as high priority in the Parks For All study.

Right now, we have a $1.9 million total park restoration set to break ground this spring in Elliott Park, as well as a new accessible playground in Central Park being constructed for $800,000. Over the past few years, we have led efforts to improve facilities and amenities in other priority parks, investing almost $400,000 in Algonquin Park, $600,000 in Boone Square, and $800,000 in Shelby Park.

Additionally, the seven Olmsted Parks west of 9th street have received almost $18 million of capital funding, more than any other part of town. This investment, made possible by Olmsted Parks Conservancy members, is why Shawnee Park, Chickasaw Park and Victory Park do not appear among the top priority sites in the Parks For All plan.

The Olmsted Parks are our city’s premiere parks. They are nationally recognized and among the largest parks in our city. People from all parts of town visit Iroquois, Shawnee and Cherokee Parks. It has been our privilege to advocate for funding and maintenance of these parks since we were founded in 1989.

The Olmsted Park System is strongest when it is supported as a whole, and we believe our work in lower-priority parks like Cherokee, Iroquois, and Shawnee will become even more important as city funding shifts to focus on historically disinvested parks.

We have been doing this work for a long time, and with your support, we will continue to ensure our city’s Olmsted Parks are restored, enhanced, and protected for many years to come. Thank you for being an Olmsted Parks Conservancy member.

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