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Olmsted Parks See More Visitors, Trash Amid Pandemic

Shelby Park in autumn

Louisville residents have flocked to the city’s parks seeking respite from the anxieties of 2020, but with the increase in visitors came an increase in the refuse they’ve left behind. 

The non-profit Olmsted Parks Conservancy is launching a new initiative to reduce trash left behind at the city’s parks called, “Be a Park Hero, Leave Behind Zero.” The group said it’s up to residents to preserve and conserve the Louisville’s historic parks. 

“Every piece of trash left behind harms the park, its users and the wildlife who call it home,” conservancy president Layla George said in a statement.

Since the pandemic began, park attendance in Jefferson County is up 150%, according to a recent Google Mobility report. 

With the increased use, the conservancy and Louisville Parks and Recreation have noticed park visitors are leaving behind more food waste, plastics and debris. The garbage is not just unsightly, it also threatens wildlife and can contaminate local waterways like Beargrass Creek, which runs through the center of Cherokee Park.

“This means not only picking up after yourself but chipping in and doing a little extra to help keep our parks clean, safe and beautiful for all of us today, and future generations tomorrow, to enjoy,” George said. 

With funding from the Trager Family Foundation, the Olmsted Parks Conservancy trash reduction campaign will include a social media campaign, signage and new trash cans at the city’s 17 Olmsted parks.

The conservancy is currently piloting the program in the Big Rock area of Cherokee Park. 

The campaign is expected to run through 2021. 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.