Louisville Parks and Recreation 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.
  • 1895    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, community 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. An ice storm in January 2009 also does major damage and requires extensive work in the parks and parkways. The city turns over ownership of Otter Creek Park to the state of Kentucky. 
  • 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 open during 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.  
  • 2013  Iroquois Park becomes host of the annual Jack O'Lantern Spectacular, created by Passion For Pumpkins, Inc. and operated as a fundraiser for the Louisville Metro Parks Foundation. In 2015, a new, state-of-the-art playground is installed at California Park thanks to the partnership. 
  • 2015 With the construction of nearly 3 miles of new paved surface and almost 8 more in the Parklands of Floyds Fork, the Louisville Loop inches towards 50 percent completion. Seve Ghose succeeds Heitz. 
  • 2016 Louisville Parks and Recreation, along with the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, dedicate the new North Overlook in Iroquois Park. The Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation program (AIR) is now headquartered in the Berrytown Recreation Center. The department's forestry program is combatting an infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) within the city's six parkways. 
  • 2017 A new cricket field at Hays Kennedy Park is established and dedicated in the name of Indian superstar Sunil Gavaskar. Louisville Parks and Recreation is re-accredited by the National Recreation and Park Association. 
  • 2018 Louisville Parks and Recreation adds Quail Chase Golf Club to its course inventory.  Joe Creason Park hosts the USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships. Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing, one of two historic properties operated by Louisville Parks and Recreation, celebrates its 25th year of public ownership. 
  • 2019 Dana Kasler is named director of Parks and Recreation. The state's pension crisis results in the closure of several outdoor swimming pools. 
  • 2020 In April the COVID-19 pandemic forces the closure of most of Metro Parks' facilities for the season. The golf courses remain open with health and safety protocols, and park usage spikes. To avoid negative vehicle/pedestrian interactions, loop roads in Iroquois and Cherokee parks are closed to vehicle traffic. 
  • 2021 A new boat ramp and temporary program office for the Louisville ECHO program are installed in Shawnee Park. Indoor facilities closed during the pandemic reopen. Major projects are completed at Tyler and Charlie Vettiner parks. 
  • 2022 Margaret Brosko serves as interim director. Louisville Parks and Recreation receives a perfect score during the CAPRA accreditation process. 
  • 2023 The system now has 125 parks covering more than 13,000 acres, with 10 golf courses, 14 community centers, the historic Iroquois Amphitheater, an Adapted and Inclusive (AIR) recreation center, the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center, two historic homes, two skateparks, five cemeteries, and the nation's largest municipal urban forest

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