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Kentucky budget includes $10 million for Louisville Waterfront Park expansion

Louisville’s Waterfront Park will receive $10 million from the state budget to fund an expansion into west Louisville. 

The funds nearly double the amount Waterfront Development Corporation has so far raised for the 22-acre expansion that connects downtown and west Louisville along the city’s waterfront. 

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear first proposed the state help fund the expansion last November. During a news conference on Monday, he said it would improve access to greenspaces for West End residents.

“This is something that we announced months and months ago, that we were going to push forward with in this budget. I’m excited that it’s happening,” Beshear said.

The funds were included in the new two year state budget passed by the Republican-led legislature. Beshear vetoed parts of the spending plan on Monday, but praised several elements, including the Waterfront Park expansion.

Louisville’s Waterfront Park is an 85-acre public park run by the non-profit Waterfront Development Corporation. Prior to breaking ground in 1992, the waterfront was a maze of industrial development, chain link fences, junkyards and asphalt terminals. 

The expansion builds on the success of previous phases in converting the city’s waterfront into greenspace.

Plans call for the estimated $50 million project to connect downtown Louisville with the Portland neighborhood with the goals of improving the waterfront, providing community-gathering space, walkability, recreation and accessibility.

When complete, the expansion area will be within a 20-minute walk of over 10,000 residents, according to Waterfront Development Corporation Executive Director Deborah Bilitski.

“It represents a milestone in our mission moving forward,” she said. “We are super grateful that the leaders in state government have seen fit to fund this very important project for the community.”

With the state funds, Bilitski said the nonprofit has raised about $21.7 million of the $50 million total cost, which includes monies from the city and private donors.

As with other sections of the park, new construction will be done in phases. Waterfront Development Corporation expects to break ground on the next component in the Phase IV project later this summer.

For that, Waterfront Park teamed up with the Kentucky Science Center to create an outdoor learning area called PlayWorks at Waterfront Park. Plans include creative play structures and interactive displays that will teach about the park's history.

Disclosure: Waterfront Development Corporation works with Louisville Public Media, which WFPL is a part of, to produce the WFPK Waterfront Wednesday concert series.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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