Westward Expansion of Waterfront Park
The expansion of Waterfront Park towards Louisville’s West End has been talked about off and on for decades. Direct access to the Ohio River along the stretch between downtown and Portland is limited—very noticeably limited. The Waterfront Development Corporation’s executive director David Karem said officials decided now is the time to figure out what is feasible.
Louisville Metro Council recently approved the city budget. There is $40,000 budgeted to develop a “Waterfront Park West Strategy.” This “strategy” would plan for a new park on land the city already owns. This land totals twenty acres and is west of 10th Street. Further in the future, the plans would connect riverfront parks from downtown through the neighborhoods of Portland, Shawnee, and Chickasaw.
Karem says the plan will be very detailed—what the project could look like when finished, and the cost as well. Westward phases of Waterfront Park would be in phases. The amount of such phases would be decided by available funding. If Waterfront Park West does come to life, the park could host facilities like those of the upriver park: playground/sprayground, an amphitheater, other venue space, and possibly a lawn for festivals.
There are already green spaces along the river, including Chickasaw, Lannan, and Shawnee parks. There is also land around the old Portland Canal and the Army Corps of Engineers facilities near the McAlpine Dam. Karem says these major recreational areas are worth trying to connect. He also noted how old RiverWalk is in bad need of renovation, even impassible in some spots by overgrown forestation and simply a lack of pavement.
Over the past two decades, Waterfront Park’s development has been done in phases. Little to nothing has been done for the parks growth west of the Fourth Street Warf. The floodwall, existing parking lots for Museum Row, and Interstate 64 have all been cited as some of the reasons for the limited Waterfront Park development between Fourth and 10th streets. There has been a stagnant proposal to extend River Road several blocks passed Eight Street. An extension of the road would clearly prove to be a valuable artery to a westward expansion of Waterfront Park, and to the West End communities.
The westward expansion of Waterfront Park is expected to be a key recommendation in downtown Louisville’s new master plan. The plan is due to be completed by the end of the year. Several Louisville government officials have voices their favor of the park’s westward expansion. Metro Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, whose district is centered in the Shawnee neighborhood, has already included the design money in the budget.
Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott’s district runs along the river from south of Broadway Street through the Riverside Gardens and Lake Dreamland neighborhoods. Attica says, “We need connectivity from downtown to west Louisville.” Scott also ensures that providing more access to the river for the West End would boost resident’s opportunities to get close to nature.
Shawnee Neighborhood Association board member Melvin Bethel points out how many west Louisville residents feel their noteworthy chuck of the city—both geographically, and historically—has been left out of new city-funded projects for so long. Bethel also thinks Waterfront Park West would be a benefit for the overlooked community.
Metro Councilman David Tandy says many west Louisville residents would probably appreciate an ability to connect with the Ohio River. Tandy’s district includes most of downtown, including the wharf area of Waterfront Park.
Waterfront Park is definitely one of Louisville’s biggest urban attractions. The park is a gem for the city, especially for residents of downtown and the East End. The park’s connectivity to the West End would open doors for the citizens of communities like Portland to better enjoy the festivities, nature, and Ohio River. A westward expansion of the park would also help to brighten the community with its amenities and venue space. Waterfront Park attracts more than 1.5 million visitors every year for charity walks, concerts, festivals, the Chow Wagon, picnics, everyday life—walking, jogging, Louisvillians playing frisbee or touch football, families enjoying the playgrounds, and people who just come to the park to relax and enjoy the Ohio River. I personally am all for this expansion. It is long overdue.