By Jackie Green
“It came as a surprise to many to see the recent ‘City Park Facts Report,’ published by the Trust for Public Land, rank Louisville only 38th out of the 40 largest cities in the United States for the effectiveness of its public park system.”
So stated Dan Jones, CEO of 21st Century Parks, in his Courier-Journal article of July 22.
Jones continued: “The metrics used in this report focused on walkable small parks and playgrounds, and the public’s access to them … Based upon these metrics, a less populated, more spread out, merged city such as Louisville, ranks lower than a more densely populated city.”
Having correctly identified the issues that result in Louisville’s low ranking – transportation and land use – Dan Jones then changed the topic as he praised the Parklands of Floyds Fork. “Jefferson Memorial Forest, Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest, and now The Parklands of Floyds Fork provide amenities in abundance.”
With the exception of a vague line in his last paragraph, “we should embrace the findings of the “City Park Facts” study, which helps to identify areas for progress,” he failed to address the real problem – transportation and land use.
In a more truthful moment, he documented his prejudice. His statement “Jefferson Memorial Forest, Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest, and now The Parklands of Floyds Fork provide amenities in abundance” is followed immediately with “all within minutes of downtown.”
This is true only for those who drive.TARC service area. (Click to enlarge.) Parklands of Floyds Fork. (Click to enlarge.)
Take a look at two maps, one of the Parklands of Floyds Fork the other of the TARC system map.
TARC does not service the Parklands of Floyds Fork. Nor does it service Jefferson Memorial Forest or Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest. These great parks are accessible to the vast majority of Louisville residents only by car.
Given the percentage of our population who do not own cars, Dan Jones’ statement – “Louisville residents benefit from a rich menu of public park experiences — for young and old, regardless of income” – not only rings hollow, but also insults those too young to drive, those too old to drive, those too poor to drive, those too ill to drive, those not permitted to drive and those who choose not to drive.
To what future does Dan Jones refer with his statement, “…. unlike many other large cities, Louisville is planning its parks for the future”?
The same question might be asked of Mayor Greg Fischer’s future Louisville.
The mayor is enabling greenfield development all along the distant Parklands. He is enabling highway expansion to accommodate a distant Veterans Administration Hospital.
He is enabling the distant residential and business development north of Utica, Ind. He is watching TARC cut services and raise fares.
In short he is developing a Louisville that is more spread out, less serviceable by public transit, more automobile dependent, less walkable and ultimately less competitive, less sustainable.
The Trust for Public Land is one of the latest in a long line of reports spanning many years that warns Louisville of an uncompetitive, unsustainable future. Multiple Brookings Institute studies (commissioned by Louisville leadership) and the Climate Action Report generated by the Partnership for a Green City (comprised of Metro Louisville, University of Louisville and Jefferson County Public Schools), and many other organizations, consultants and specialists have all documented and defined in detail the ‘Whys’ and the ‘Hows’ of designing a competitive, sustainable city.
Louisville will not be competitive or sustainable unless we change our land use and transportation patterns.
I took time out from parking bicycles at the Forecastle Festival last week to greet Mayor Fischer. After discussing bicycling in Louisville, I reminded him of an approaching initiative that will ask him to change the city’s land use and transportation policies. He responded by suggesting that we work together on the 90 percent of the issues on which we agree. His suggestion reminded me of the emergency room doctor examining an athlete suffering a heart attack. The doctor, concluding the patient is 90-percent healthy, turns and walks away.
Transportation and land use define a city and its health. Louisville is sick, very sick. And our leadership refuses to address the illness.
We need more urban reinvestment, less greenfield development. We need more public transit, fewer parking lots, highways and roads. We need more walkable communities, slower moving urban traffic.
Our future is at stake.
For more information:
- The map of the Parklands of Floyds Fork is available here.
- The map of the TARC system is available here.
- The Trust for Public Land’s City Park Facts report is available here.
- Dan Jones’ article is available here.
About Jackie Green: Jackie Green is a Louisville business owner, environmental activist and former mayoral candidate. Green co-founded Louisville’s only bicycle courier service in 2001 and the Bike Couriers Bike Shops in 2006. His community activism includes:
. Co-founding the No Wider I-64 coalition of neighborhoods and organizations fighting the widening of I-64 through Cherokee Park.
. Serving as executive director of the Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation (CART), where he was successful in organizing low interest rates for home buyers along Louisville’s public transit corridors and forcing a public transit option into the Ohio River Bridges study.
. Co-founding KTAP (Kentuckiana Transportation Action Partnership), a coalition of 25 organizations.