Metro Parks Earns Funding to Connect West Louisville Youth to Outdoor Experiences

March 17, 2015

Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation has received $25,000 to engage children and families in West Louisville in outdoor activities as well as summer trips to Mammoth Cave National Park for at-risk teens. The funding comes from the National Park Service and the Outdoor Foundation as part of the 2014 Challenge Cost Share Program, which supports projects that promote urban outreach, youth engagement and connecting people to the outdoors. 

The grant supports Metro Parks overall West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative to create new recreational amenities in West Louisville, including the proposed Shawnee Outdoor Learning Center. With this funding, in 2015 approximately 1,500 youth and adults will be provided with outdoor experiences such as canoeing, fishing, archery, climbing, hiking) by Jefferson Memorial Forest (JMF) Staff and its partners, including Outdoor Afro, KY and Wilderness Inquiry of Minneapolis. Programming will serve youth from Metro Parks’ community centers and other local youth service providers. The funding will also support recreational activities for the general public at the 35th annual West Louisville Appreciation Days in July and the 4th annual Canoemobile in October, both of which occur in Shawnee Park.

“We are extremely excited for this funding from the Outdoor Foundation and for the opportunity to partner with the National Park Service,” said Bennett Knox, Administrator of the Metro Parks’ Natural Areas Division including the Jefferson Memorial Forest.  “It will further Metro Parks’ efforts to expand the horizons of local youth by creating opportunities to explore nature at the neighborhood level. 

The Challenge Cost Share Program supports the National Park Service’s parks and programs that are aligned with partners that promote urban outreach, youth engagement and/or connecting people to the outdoors. The initiative requires a 1:1 match by the local recipient — resulting in greater financial leverage and impact. Matching funds for Louisville’s project were provided by Louisville Metro Government as part of Mayor Greg Fischer’s efforts to expand out-of-school time activities for at risk youth. In addition, the Outdoor Foundation, as well as the new 501c3 friends group for Jefferson Memorial Forest, Wilderness Louisville, Inc. is actively seeking additional support for this project. Program priorities include:

• Urban Outreach: Projects to promote active healthy living, restore or conserve community natural and cultural assets, or promote close-to-home access to recreation within an urban setting.

• Youth Engagement: Projects to engage youth participants to play, learn, serve and work associated with National Park Service sites and programs.

• Connecting People to the Outdoors: Projects to enhance tangible and/or intangible access to the outdoors that provide increased outdoor recreation opportunities.

"Research shows that kids do better in other aspects of their lives if they spend time outdoors," said Sarah Craighead, superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park.  "I am grateful to all of our partners.  The Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program is an outreach arm of the National Park Service that helps connect people with parks, and the Friends of Mammoth Cave make that connection possible by providing transportation grants, bringing bus-loads of kids to the park."

“The Outdoor Foundation is thrilled to partner with the National Park Service to reconnect Americans to their national parks and engage a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts and stewards,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation. “The Challenge Cost Share program is one of the most effective initiatives that leverages public and private funds and invests in local partnerships that deliver results.”

Overall, the Challenge Cost Share Program partners selected 20 projects, from 187 applications, and will award nearly $400,000 that will be matched by an additional $885,000 in direct and in-kind contributions from recipients. A total of 14,000 youth are expected to be engaged through the program.


About The Outdoor Foundation:

The Outdoor Foundation is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and growing future generations of outdoor leaders and enthusiasts. Through groundbreaking research, youth engagement and community grant-making, the Foundation works with young leaders and partners to mobilize a major cultural shift that leads all Americans to the great outdoors. In just five years, the Foundation has invested $4 million into 500 not-for-profit and college programs that have connected 200,000 young people to the outdoors. Importantly, 90¢

of every dollar goes directly into this critical work. Visit us at


About Jefferson Memorial Forest:

The 6,500 acre Jefferson Memorial Forest, a woodland tribute to those Kentucky veterans who have served our nation during times of war, is Jefferson County’s largest nature preserve and one of the largest municipal urban forests in the nation. The Forest is the flagship of Metro Parks’ Natural Areas Division which is entrusted with providing stewardship, nature-based educational programming, and outdoor recreation within nearly 7,000 acres of forest, meadow, and riparian habitat across Louisville Metro. Jefferson Memorial Forest offers a full range of recreational amenities, including weekend education and adventure programs, hiking trails, camping, fishing, horseback riding trails and picnic areas.  For more information or to volunteer, go to