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Natural Trails: Updates on Cherokee Park, Iroquois Park, and Seneca Park

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Spring Natural Surface Trail Update

Iroquois Park Trail

April 18, 2023

First, a reminder on the process for our Natural Surface Trail Plan – Olmsted Parks Conservancy, in partnership with Louisville Parks and Recreation, conducted a trail study in 2019-2020 with help from Alta Planning and Design to learn how to better control soil erosion and improve the existing natural trail system in Cherokee, Iroquois, and Seneca Parks. The team worked to develop recommendations to improve the natural surface trails by combining data from their field observations with the feedback received via interactive park maps, a Trail Usage Survey, and the input received during two public meetings

The Natural Surface Trail Plan provides a conceptual 25-year guide for three of Louisville’s Olmsted-designed parks. While Cherokee, Seneca, and Iroquois Parks are well-loved community assets, their trail systems have a history of challenging issues including overwhelming use, rogue trails, conflict between trail users, and environmental degradation.

To develop the Natural Surface Trail Plan, Olmsted Parks Conservancy and Louisville Parks and Recreation completed the following:

• Listened to numerous park users on their needs for the trail system and incorporated their feedback to develop a connected network of trails that provides equitable access.

• Studied and confirmed the environmental impacts of the current trail system

• Looked for ways to develop a sustainable trail system that limits erosion, the spread of invasive species, and other impacts to the landscapes of the parks.

• Considered the long-term maintenance and financial needs of the trail system.

• Prepared and implemented a competitive RFP process.

The Natural Surface Trail Plan provides recommendations for enhancing the existing trail systems including identifying renovation projects, establishing new trails, closure of eroded unsustainable trails, and recommendations for ongoing management. Implementation of the final natural trail surface plan is dependent upon raising the necessary funds for the project. The old trails had many challenges that needed to be addressed, such as overwhelming use, rogue trails, conflict between trail users, mobility, and environmental degradation. The rogue trails had to be removed. The trail builders were instructed to build for 5% maximum slope to ensure accessibility and erosion control. Along with protecting soil and tree roots, creating shared sustainable trails for both hikers and bikers is our top priority.

Since receiving the plan recommendations, we worked with Louisville Parks and Recreation to hire a contractor through the city’s procurement process, which involves a national search and an award to the most competitive bid. Together, we selected High Country Conservation to develop exact cost estimates for each section of trail construction and repair. To be clear, the contract required a firm to do work in 3 parks – which includes a variety of trail uses, so it was not appropriate to select a specialized trail builder.

Trail Study & Conceptual Plan: $79,000 investment

Iroquois Park: $140,520 investment to date

The trail work done in the first phase in Iroquois Park helps to move us towards the recommended goal of connecting key access points and destinations by linking the amphitheater parking lot, hiking behind the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular area, and the Corbly Trail up to the North Overlook. Phase 1 will be completed once stone steps are installed with the Corbly Trail connection to the North Overlook. 

Seneca Park: $93,000 investment to date

The first phase of trail work in the Wilderness Loop area of Seneca Park has been mostly completed. We have met and spoken with KYMBA leadership several times regarding concerns of some sections of these trails. As the trails continue to be used and broken in, there will be additional modifications with the help of OPC staff and KYMBA volunteers.

Cherokee Park: $120,000 investment to date

The first phase of trail work in Cherokee began recently with a focus on repair and protecting tree roots. The trail crew is currently working in an area near Chauffeur’s Rest and will then move to the area below Hogan’s Fountain for a couple of weeks. Following that work, project areas will be evaluated based upon the remaining budget of the currently available funding. OPC continues to consult with KYMBA leadership as work continues. Timeline of trail work is weather dependent. We ask that park users respect signage indicating work being done in project areas, as well as trail rules signage throughout the park.

KYMBA has been and continues to be a good partner. They do lots of volunteer work in our parks and keep our trails vibrant and active, exactly what we want to see. We will be scheduling additional meetings with KYMBA leadership at the beginning, middle, and around 90% completion of the first phase of work to be done in Cherokee Park.

OVERALL ESTIMATED COST FOR COMPLETE IMPLEMENTATION OF TRAIL WORK IN ALL 3 PARKS: $800,000

Wilderness Loop in Seneca Park

Revised December 9, 2022

Wilderness Loop in Seneca Park Trail work has been mostly completed. While the trails are not officially opened, we know that mountain bikers and hikers have begun using them already.

These trails have been rebuilt and some sections are more technical. Please click the link below to review the map and use caution when attempting the Blue/Black section.

Hikers, please yield to cyclists and use extreme caution on the ascending sections. Mountain bikers may be traveling at higher speeds with less reaction time and notice. Please note that the descending sections of trails are mountain bike use only.

Dogs must be on a leash and hikers with dogs are encouraged to use other trails, if possible, to prevent injury to themselves, other park users, and their animals.

Link: Seneca Park Wilderness Loop Trails


Closure of Wilderness Loop in Seneca Park will begin today, September 9, 2022

This section, known as the Wilderness Loop, will be reworked to include bike optimized climbing and descending trails (On the trail plan this is SP 4 and part of SP2). Earlier this summer, OPC cleared sections of thick invasive plants. Now, the trail crew is bringing in two small earth-moving machines and some other equipment. Both machines and a chainsaw may be in operation all at the same time, and operators will have hearing and vision protection on, so they very well may not see or hear people, dogs, or bikes in the work zone. Please stay out of the area that is flagged for closure until further notice. 

If the weather is good, you may run into trail work into the evenings and on weekends, and machines, logs, and other equipment may be on the trails.  Please use other trails in Seneca and Cherokee while this area is closed – this is for your safety and for the safety of the trail crew.  

Click the image below to view in larger scale. The red bounding boxes are closed for construction.

IROQUOIS PARK:

Phase 1 is about halfway to completion.  IP8 and IP9 on the Eastern half of the park (above the Amphitheater) are complete and available to hike.  This moves us towards the goal of connecting key access points and destinations by linking the amphitheater parking lot, hiking behind the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular area, and taking user up towards the Corby Trail and North Overlook.   Work at Iroquois has paused while the crew moves on to Seneca for the next couple of months. Phase 1 will be completed late this year when IP23 (The Corbly Trail connection to the North Overlook) has new stone steps installed.

cherokee PARK:

Work is slated to begin at Cherokee after progress is made on Seneca Phase 1 trails. No closures at this time – please enjoy the trails!


Update: Natural Trail Study & Conceptual Plan

Thank you to everyone who completed the survey, attended a public meeting and provided feedback through the interactive park maps. The design team used that feedback in developing a plan for a more sustainable park trail system in Cherokee Park, Iroquois Park, and Seneca Park. While these parks are well-loved community assets, there are challenging issues such as overwhelming use, rogue trails, conflict between trail users, mobility and environmental degradation.

Since receiving the plan recommendations, we worked with Louisville Parks and Recreation to hire a contractor through the city’s procurement process. We have selected High Country Conservation to develop exact cost estimates for each section of trail construction and repair. Once we have the construction documents, we will then work with Louisville Parks and Recreation and High Country Conservation to develop a timeline for implementation.  

Click the links below to view the park recommendations for Cherokee, Iroquois, and Seneca.

For the latest updates and information, please sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media. 

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