12:40pm

Fri April 27, 2012
Lexington/Richmond

Private Park Land Possibilities

The future face of urban parks could give a slightly different meaning to the phrase ‘green space.   More of that “space” could be privately financed.  Parks in cities like Lexington are publicly supported and maintained.  But another p-word, private, could be used to describe parks of the future.  Such a space now exists in Louisville, with its ‘Parklands of Floyd’s Fork’ project.  The aim is to develop and link four parks with land mostly bought with private funds.

  Dan Jones is the chief operating officer for 21st Century Parks..

“That basic idea of preserving land..turning it into public parkland.. ahead of development is the guiding principal of this project…it worked incredible well 150 years ago in New York..100 years ago in Louisville…and we want to do that again here,” said Jones.

19th century landscape architect Frederick Olmstead, who’s credited with developing New York’s Central park, also designed the park system in Louisville.

Jones recently brought his ideas about park development  to Lexington city hall.  Council member Steve Kay admits local park offerings can be improved..

“I also appreciate your distinction between open space and public space…we have done a good job…I think…of preserving our open space…but I don’t think we’ve done as well with our parks. ..we have an opportunity to do that.”

If a compelling vision is created, Kay predicts it can attract private investment.  He adds people are willing to pay for something they see makes a difference in their community.

Privately developed parks could make money through adventure attractions like off road biking and zip lines.  They may be built into the park project in Louisville, and could one day be part of a similar project in Lexington.  Council member Doug Martin recently rode a zip line at Mammoth Cave, but, says in Fayette County, there’s a different attitude

“Here in Lexington, we treat zip lines like King’s Island….they’re amusement park rides…and so we have prohibited zip lines in Fayette County and so we couldn’t do that kind of thing here,” added Martin.

Like Floyd’s Fork in Louisville, there are a number of urban waterways in Lexington where private parks could be developed.  Council member Peggy Henson agrees those are untapped opportunities.  Still, everyone at Lexington city hall admits, if private parks are created in the Bluegrass, they would take on a flare different from that under development in Louisville.