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History of Metro Parks

Metro Parks History

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1880 Baxter Square Park is purchased, becoming Louisville's first park.
1888 Mayor Charles Jacob purchases Burnt Knob (named Jacob Park, later Iroquois).
1890 Board of Parks Commissioners of the City of Louisville established by law and vote of the people. Intent is to have a park in each portion of the city: west, south and east. City conveys all park land (including Baxter and Jacob) to the Board.
1891 Frederick Law Olmsted, father of American landscape architecture, visits Louisville, signs contract for his firm to do design work. City has 7 parks: Shawnee, Iroquois, Cherokee, Boone Square, Baxter Square, and Kenton Place and Logan Place (last two no longer exist). Parkway system begins; more land acquired for 3 main parks and parkways.
1900 Cherokee Golf Course established.
1903 Frederick Law Olmsted dies.
1907 Cherokee Golf Club incorporated.
1921 Chickasaw Park named.
1924 Parks become segregated by law, overturned in 1957.
1929 City recreation programs run by division of Department of Welfare. Other divisions include Public Baths, Cemeteries and a Service Bureau.
1934 Olmsted firm will no longer be under contract, except for special projects.
1938 Iroquois Amphitheater, constructed by WPA labor, opens.
1942 Board of Parks Commissioners replaced by City Department of Parks and Recreation. First Director of Parks and Recreation (also last secretary of the old Parks Commission) is T.B. Morgan.
1944 Jefferson County Playground and Recreation Board begins, with funding from Fiscal Court and free use of County Board of Education school sites. County neighborhood committee system to support recreation starts.
1946 Jefferson Memorial Forest's initial tracts acquired. Charlie Vettiner becomes director of Jefferson County Playground and Recreation Board, succeeding Ray Baer, who served from 1944.
1947 Otter Creek Park in Brandenburg given to the City of Louisville by the federal government. Highview Park acquired by the County.
1956 City Parks and Recreation Department headed by William Moore. “Rainbow Chain of County Parks” land acquisition continues in high gear by County: Cox (1952), Chenoweth (now Vettiner, 1957), Hounz Lane (1958) and Long Run (1960).
1961 City Parks and Recreation Department headed by George Kincaid. McNeely Park acquisition by County begins.
1964 Waverly Park acquired by County.
1968 City and County parks and recreation departments merged, forming Metropolitan Park and Recreation Board ("Metro Parks").  First Director is Charlie Vettiner.  County parks equal 3,338 acres, including 1,721 in the Memorial Forest, supervised playgrounds, swimming pools, communty buildings, golf courses, camping areas, cultural arts center, etc. City parks have 2,211 acres of major parks as well as 11 community centers, playgrounds, swimming pools, golf courses, etc.
1970 Metro Parks is headed by Carl Bradley.
1974 Major tornado damage occurs in Cherokee and George Rogers Clark Parks.
1977 Metro Parks is headed by Bob Kirchdorfer.
1986 Louisville & Jefferson County Compact adopted.  Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Board is dissolved, replaced by an Advisory Commission.  The department administers 9,375 acres, with 137 parks and the Memorial Forest, and various other recreational facilities. City and County governments each provide funding for operation and improvement of parks, according to each park's location.
1989 The Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy is created. The Leadership Development Center begins at the Horine section of the Memorial Forest.
1992 Metro Parks is headed by Brigid Sullivan.
1995 Otter Creek Park becomes a division of Metro Parks.
1998 The Parks Department manages 112 parks, 12,600 acres, 9 golf courses, 14 swimming pools, and 19 community centers!
2000 South Louisville Community Center opens as newest recreation facility in Metro Parks system.
2001 56-acre Thurman Hutchins Park opens.
2002 Louisville Extreme Park and 130-acre Miles Park open; Fairmount Falls Park acquired. Clay Campbell serves as interim director of Metro Parks.
2003 Metro Parks becomes a department of Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, as City and County governments merge.  Michael J. Heitz becomes director of Metro Parks. Iroquois Amphitheater reopens after extensive $8.6 million restoration.
2004 Louisville Tennis Center reopens with new operator after falling into disrepair two years before.  Three years later, it will grow from 9 to 11 clay courts. Two of Louisville Metro's historic properties – Locust Grove and Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing – become part of the Metro Parks system.
2005 Mayor Abramson and Humana co-founder David A. Jones unveil City of Parks expansion and improvement initiative.  Jones pledges to raise $20 million, and Sen. Mitch McConnell obtains $38 million federal earmark.  Land acquisition begins, under leadership of new non-profit organization, 21st Century Parks.  Jefferson Memorial Forest grows to more than 6,000 acres.
2006 Wallace Roberts & Todd selected by 21st Century Parks to develop master plan for the Floyds Fork Greenway Project, part of the City of Parks initiative.
2007 Louisville Metro Parks became one of only 73 parks and recreation agencies in the nation to be accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies.  The announcement, made during the National Recreation and Park Association’s annual conference in Indianapolis, places Metro Parks among the nation’s best parks and recreation departments.
2008 A September windstorm does heavy damage to dozens of parks and the Olmsted Parkways, while leaving most community centers without power. Metro Parks forestry crews assist other city crews in debris removal in the following weeks.
2010 Metro Parks unveils new aquatics plan focusing on outdoor, low-cost, low-maintenance spraygrounds. New facilities opened in Shelby, Wyandotte, Petersburg and LaPorte parks, and four more are scheduled to open in 2011. Also new is the Eva Bandman Cyclocross Venue, which will host the 2013 World Championships, the first time this event will be held outside of Europe.  
2012 Metro Parks system includes 122 parks covering more than 13,000 acres, with 9 golf courses, 16 community centers, five swimming pools (including the indoor Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center), two historic homes, and the nation's largest municipal urban forest.


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