ALBERTA O. JONES PARK
Thanks to the dedication of California Neighborhood residents, the Parks Alliance of Louisville, and many community partners, the vacant land along Maple Street between Dr. W.J. Hodge and 25th will be transformed into a vibrant public park. It will be named for pioneering attorney and civil rights champion Alberta Odell Jones whose first law office was located just blocks from the park site.
The first phase of park construction—on five of the site’s roughly 20 acres—began in March 2023 and will celebrate the community's unique culture and heritage. Phase One will include all of the community’s most-requested features:
In 2021, a group of residents from the California Neighborhood formed a Leadership Committee to guide the development of the Maple Street Greenspace Project. The group continues to meet monthly to shape the broad community outreach. In 2021, this included tabling at California Day, Victory Park Day, and two "pop-up" events at the location itself, all of which engaged several hundred people. Students at Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, campers at the Republic Bank Foundation YMCA, and families from St. Benedict Early Childhood Education Center all helped with playground design.
Residents Juan Davis, Jr. and Dreema Jackson joined the Board of Directors of the Parks Alliance in 2020 to provide resident voice and leadership for not only Alberta O. Jones Park, but all of the initiatives of the Alliance—as we focus on ensuring equitable park investment for all Louisville residents.
Through targeted outreach to the California neighborhood, in-person events, direct mail, and social media polls, hundreds of surveys have been collected to determine the design of the park—from prioritizing recreational amenities to choosing an overarching park theme. The final stage of community engagement wrapped on October 15, 2022, with a "Name Your Park" survey mailed to 2,200 households in the neighborhood with a postage-paid return envelope.
Here are all of the survey results...
Top five choices based on community surveys collected from 2016-2021
What design theme reflects the unique qualities of the California Neighborhood?
Playground Theme and Features
100 children and families gave input through July 2022
Name Your Park Survey
THE BRILLIANT LIFE OF ALBERTA ODELL JONES
A trailblazer from West Louisville born in 1930, Alberta Odell Jones graduated from Central High School, attended Louisville Municipal College for Negroes (now Simmons University) where she graduated third in her class, and eventually graduated fourth in her class from Howard University School of Law. She was one of the first Black women to pass the Kentucky Bar exam and opened a practice in Louisville at 2019 West Broadway just blocks from the site of the new park.
Jones negotiated the first professional boxing contract for young boxer Cassius Clay who eventually changed his name to Muhammad Ali and became a three-time heavyweight boxing champion and global humanitarian. In 1965, she became the first woman appointed a city attorney in Jefferson County, working as a prosecutor in the Louisville Domestic Relations Court to convict perpetrators of domestic violence.
As a civil rights activist, she participated in the March on Washington, was a member of the NAACP, and worked with the Louisville Urban League. Jones formed the Independent Voters Association of Louisville, renting voting machines to teach Black Louisvillians how to vote, resulting in 6,000 new voters who replaced the mayor and other city officials.
Her life was tragically cut short in August 1965: she was murdered, and her case remains unsolved. The U.S. Department of Justice reopened the case in 2017 following the passage of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act.
For Flora Shanklin, naming the new park in honor of her big sister Alberta Jones brings tremendous joy. “Words cannot describe how happy and grateful I am. This is the greatest recognition she has ever received and it will be permanent and everlasting. She was such an extraordinary person and way ahead of her time.”
The park recognition is especially fitting because Jones was so focused on helping children. After her death, Shanklin found the following written in Jones’ diary: “When I die and cross the way, no greater epitaph will there be, for some small child to say, ‘Gee, she did a lot for me.’”
The Alberta O. Jones Park playground is designed by Earthscape, one of the premier playground companies in North America. It will encourage natural and non-prescriptive play that engages children of all ages and abilities. As requested by the community, the playground celebrates music-making with giant musical notes and a scale built into a soaring climbing tower, sound-making devices, as well as swings, slides, and connecting bridges. There will be opportunities for kids to play together, as well as places for quiet, individual activity.
Take a video tour of this awesome new play space that will anchor Phase I:
This project has been made possible by the residents of the California Neighborhood and these generous donors:
THE POWER OF COLLABORATION
Owsley Brown III * Brooke Brown Barzun * Augusta Brown Holland
L.L. Jones, Sr Charitable Fund
Strand Associates, Inc.
The Housing Partnership, Inc.
Herman H. Nettelroth Fund
Lift A Life Novak Family
Old National Bank Foundation
The Norton Foundation, Inc.
Richard & Nancy Wimsatt Family
The Cralle Foundation, Inc.
Enterprise Holdings Foundation
The Gilbert Foundation, Inc.
Cornerstone Engineering, Inc.
LG&E KU Foundation
Magna Engineers, PLLC
Alice and Barry Bridges
William E. Barth Foundation
Daniel Clay Kelly
Jacobi, Toombs & Lanz, Inc.
Network for Good
Coulter Mapping Solutions Inc
7NT Engineering LLC
Historic flood when over 7 inches of rain fell in just 75 minutes
Purchased through a FEMA grant (out of 128 eligible properties)
Vacant land, most permanently conserved through FEMA grant
Completed by residents to date with ideas on recreational amenities, playground features, and park name
1% OF LAND
Currently dedicated to parks and greenspace in the California neighborhood
100 NATIVE TREES
To be planted across the park site
MAPLE STREET: August 9, 2009
BEFORE Disaster Recovery
AFTER Flood Mitigation
FROM CATASTROPHE TO CONSERVATION
On August 4, 2009, Louisville experienced a historic weather event when more than seven inches of rain fell in just 75 minutes. While thousands of homes in the West End were flooded, Maple Street between Dr. W.J. Hodge and 26th Streets was devastated, with some residents needing rescue by boat. This low-lying area overlays a streambed that was encapsulated with a combined sewer in the early 1900s.
Following a presidential disaster declaration, flood mitigation funds became available to improve public health and safety. Louisville’s Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) secured a $9.75 million FEMA grant to acquire and raze more than 100 properties in the Maple Street Flood Mitigation Area, allowing residents the opportunity to move out of harm’s way. MSD purchased 114 parcels through the voluntary FEMA grant program and Louisville’s Land Bank obtained additional vacant or abandoned properties in the area.
As a result, the site encompasses more than 20 acres over seven city blocks, most permanently conserved greenspace to prevent future residential flooding. But in its current state, the vacant land it is unusable to the public.
Now, more than 13 years since the flooding catastrophe, the area’s promise is finally poised to be realized as it is transformed into an exceptional public park.