This article appears in the March 2011 issue of LouisvilleMagazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
Part 2 of 5 . . .
Walking is the bargain basement of the fitness world. It’s easy, affordable and doesn’t require fancy equipment. “All you need is pair of good shoes, motivation and an interesting place to walk,” says Angela Hollingsworth, who led walking groups for years as a health educator for Metro Louisville.
Hollingsworth usually took groups to the scenic paths through Shawnee and Chickasaw parks. And virtually all of the Metro Parks offer great places to roam, with their curves, hills and terrain changes protected from street traffic and noise.
But it’s not necessary to drive to a park to find a fantastic walk. Many of us have paths right outside our door. In Crescent Hill, my route up Frankfort Avenue to the Louisville Water Co. reservoir and back is a well-beaten trail for local fitness fans, dog walkers and even a group of children who hike to school each morning with their parents. But for those who don’t have sidewalks out front of their houses or may be looking to spice up their regimens, we found some wonderful walks in fresh places.
Our criteria: Sidewalks or paths must be safely segregated from traffic; the route must form a loop that doesn’t require doubling back; visual interest and variety is essential; and bonus points are awarded for a place to stop for a snack or cup of coffee. All of these walks are between one and three miles long.
2. Southern Parkway: The Olmstead Walk
Walking Southern Parkway is like stepping back in time. Welcome to Mayberry, USA. On any given spring night, the sidewalks on both sides of the parkway and its side streets will be sprinkled with dog walkers, baby strollers, walking groups and serious runners. People meet up with friends, neighbors chat with neighbors and parents wait for their children at the bus stop. Firefighters sit on benches in front of the station and people gather on the benches outside the Iroquois branch library.
Mark Monfalcone, who lives on Sixth Street, often walks with his family and loves the ambiance of Southern Parkway. “I like that there’s a wide walkway and it’s away from the traffic,” he says. “But I really like that there’s always people around.
You can feel the community activity going on.”
That was the concept when the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted designed this elegant avenue, the grand dame of Louisville’s Olmsted parkways. Exhibiting the best principles of the great landscape architect’s concept of a “linear park,” it opened circa 1890 as “Grand Boulevard” and has all the hallmarks of the true Olmsted parkway: a robust tree canopy, few traffic lights, wide byways, limited commercial development and connection to a major park — in this case Iroquois Park. In other words, it’s a walker’s paradise.
This tour starts at the charming gazebo on Woodlawn Avenue and Southern Parkway and makes a beeline southwest to Iroquois Park, where a seasoned walker might head into the park and get on the walking loop and an ambitious one might head up to the top of the hill. But for a less-hilly circuit, proceed on the left-hand side of wide, wide Southern to the park’s entrance at its northeastern tip, then trek back on the opposite side past the newly named Frederick L. Olmsted Academy South (previously Iroquois Middle School). Turn left at Bluegrass Avenue to Sixth Street and continue north on Sixth. You can stop for a break at the library on Woodlawn Avenue and then resume on Sixth to Ashland Avenue.
All along Southern Parkway and Sixth Street is an eclectic mix of housing and gardening styles. Old Victorians are interlaced with bungalows, ranches and even a few “haciendas,” which grace the opening of Spanish Court at Sixth Street. Heading east on Ashland, you will pass the Engine No. 10 firehouse, built in 1924 and on the National Register of Historic Places. It will remain in place once the newly constructed adjacent house opens this spring.
Turning south again on Southern, stop for little snack at Sunergos Coffee on Woodlawn and end up back at the gazebo. There you will find the most welcome feature of all — a drinking fountain.
Nina Walfoort served as project director of ACTIVE Louisville and chairman of the Active Living Committee of the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement.