In 2005, then-mayor, Jerry Abramson, launched the “City of Parks” initiative to add thousands of acres of parkland and protected green space to Louisville Metro’s “greenprint.” The name stuck, and almost two decades later, you will still hear Louisville referred to as a city of parks.
We are fortunate to be home to a Fredrick Law Olmsted-designed park system that includes 17 Olmsted-designed parks and six parkways.
In addition to that system, we have 103 other metro parks, Jefferson Memorial Forest (the largest municipally-owned forest in the country), Parklands of Floyds Fork (privately funded), Waterfront Park, E.P. Tom Sawyer (state park), the Louisville Loop, and several parks operated by sixth-class cities. All this greenspace adds up to 23.6 acres per 1,000 residents. In just metro-operated parks we are at 16.9 acres per 1,000 residents, very close to the upper quartile, according to the National Recreation and Park Association. Bottom line: We are fortunate to have lots of parkland and greenspace in Louisville and are ahead of many other cities.
However, for those to whom much is given, much is required. We have made significant progress in adding to our green footprint, but recent additions are primarily located along the outer perimeter of Louisville Metro. There are also several areas of town where residents do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park, which is the national standard. According to the Trust for Public Land, Louisville’s park space for neighborhoods of color is 6% less than the city median, compared to white neighborhoods that enjoy 206% more park space per person than the city median.
Additionally, many neighborhood parks in underserved communities have seen decades of systemic disinvestment. Of our 120 public parks, four community parks and 25 neighborhood parks have had no capital improvements in almost 20 years. Parks For All – an equity initiative led by the Parks Alliance of Louisville – will collect new data, listen to new voices, share new information, and create a roadmap for equitable and transparent investment in our public parks.