Lou Parks and Rec
A BOLD NEW VISION:
PARKS FOR ALL
In 2021, the Parks Alliance of Louisville, the non-profit that supports more than 100 parks and community centers - two-thirds located in underserved neighborhoods - recognized the need to set a new course to drive equitable investment and elevate the well-being of our community. Working with national park experts, the Alliance undertook Parks For All, a comprehensive analysis of the physical condition of every park; the issues affecting people served by those parks, including poverty, crime, air and water quality, and physical and mental health; and asked residents what they want from their parks.
Where We Are
Proximity + Access
Conditions + Needs
Who We Are
What We Want
The public's priorities for investment
THE PARKS FOR ALL ACTION PLAN
Dedicate more financial resources over time to deliver fundamental park and recreation services.
Utilize data to allocate funds equitably. By combining park condition data and community context data, parks in neighborhoods with the greatest need are prioritized for early investment and capital projects, parks in all neighborhoods will see some degree of improvement, but substantial funding will flow first to parks in neighborhoods that need it most.
Update the Louisville Parks and Recreation Department's policies, practices, and operations to reflect national best practices, support equitable investments and provide quality service delivery.
Better utilize our network of community centers to deliver recreational programming with budgets distributed more equitably to provide greater resources to neighborhoods with greater needs. Over time, restructure the centers into a three-tiered system - Neighborhood, Community, and Regional Centers with expanded hours and staff to deliver more robust services. And because only one site was built to function as a recreational center, explore rehabbing or building new centers to fill gaps.
Adopt a coordinated strategy among park non-profits to amplify impact. A consortium of the Parks Alliance, Olmsted Parks Conservancy, and Wilderness Louisville will be established to ensure shared goals and strong coordination with Louisville Parks and Recreation.
Louisville’s ParkScore® starkly illustrates how redlining continues to harm Black and brown residents. Our predominantly white neighborhoods enjoy 206% more park space per person than the city’s median; but overall, our neighborhoods where there are predominantly people of color have 6% less than the median.
Louisville is the 29th largest city in the US, but due to historic disinvestment, we rank 90th in park quality and accessibility. Our public parks and greenspaces are special to us - and critical to our health and wellbeing. We must do better, especially for the communities that benefit the most from these public amenities.
The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore® measures access, investment, amenities, acreage, and—new in 2021—equity. With the addition of this metric, Louisville’s ranking dropped from 81st to 90th.
Louisville’s parks and natural areas are invaluable assets. The expansive Metro park system includes 120 parks, 14 community centers, swimming pools, golf courses, greenways, parkways, and two historic homes. These amenities are of vital importance to people who live here. In a 2022 poll, Louisville residents identified “parks, trails, and recreation” among the top three factors that make a community a great place to live.
Yet our public park system has faced decades of underfunding in capital investments, operating expenses, and personnel. In fact, Louisville Metro Government spends significantly less on our public park system than peer cities—just $40 per resident vs. $107. Philanthropic spending is also significantly less, at $3 per resident vs. $11. As a result of this chronic dearth of funding, 55% of Metro parks are now in “poor” or “fair” condition.
WHAT PEOPLE WANT
A statistically valid survey of more than 900 residents, with sampling from every corner of our community, found quality, well-maintained parks is a top priority. People said the most important investment area is rehabilitation—fixing what we have—followed closely by maintenance, then recreation programming, and capital for new designs and amenities.
Where investments have been made, they have been concentrated in a small percentage of parks—driving inequity in park conditions. In fact, 30 parks have received ZERO capital dollars over the last 20 years. The Trust for Public Land, which scores city park systems based on access, investment, amenities, acreage, and equity, ranks Louisville a dismal 90th out of 100.
Louisville needs a sustained infusion of new funds and an action plan to bring equity and excellence to every park in every neighborhood. Overwhelmingly, Louisvillians agree—more than 86% of 900 residents polled said our parks need more resources. It’s time to make high-quality PARKS FOR ALL a reality.
The Parks For All Action Plan calls for the commitment of additional resources to bring funding for Louisville’s public park system up to the average of comparably sized peer cities. Today, it receives just over 3% of Metro Government’s $753 million annual operating budget, far below the 5-6% average for medium-size urban cities. The action plan provides a 15-year roadmap to achieve equitable investment that is nationally competitive while ensuring our residents enjoy the social, economic, and health benefits that quality city parks bring.
START WITH EQUITY
To determine the highest needs communities, Parks For All collected data on population density, historic inequities, environmental injustices, and health and wellness. By correlating the extensive data, our experts created a community need score and mapped the locations shown on this map, from the highest to the lowest need areas.
Now we know where the most people will benefit from green investments; where can we counteract legacies of environmental racism and historic disinvestment; and where we can have the greatest impact on community health.
In addition, Parks For All assessed the physical condition of every asset within Louisville Metro’s park system. A startling 84% of our sites are in worse than good condition and the city has accrued an astonishing $177 million in deferred maintenance. The analysis found that 30 parks have received ZERO capital funding since the 2003 merger of city/county government, and nearly two-thirds received less than $500,000. Furthermore, our city-wide network of community centers are not meeting strong public demand for quality recreational activities and events under the current funding and operational model.
The data on park and agency needs, neighborhood context, and the public’s priorities, informed the recommendations in the Parks For All Action Plan, which provides a roadmap to build equity and excellence in our public park system.
Parks For All is an equity initiative led by the Parks Alliance of Louisville, in partnership with Louisville Parks & Recreation and other stakeholders. The "Local Project Team" brings together leaders from a diverse group of governmental and community organizations and an experienced national consultant team with an extensive background in park equity work.
The knowledge, experience, and passion of this group, combined with extensive community engagement, will provide a roadmap for equitable investments in our public parks.