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Plan to improve park equity in Louisville gets $1 million challenge donation

District 4 councilmember Jecorey Arthur stands on a stage. His hands are in front of his chest, palms towards himself as he gestures. To his right 4 other people sit on stools, next to them a PowerPoint slide is projected that reads "Community-Driven Change. Councilman Jecorey Arthur. Chair, Metro Council Parks and Sustainability Committee."
Breya Jones
Louisville Public Media
The "parks for all" action plan outlines 15 years of increase in government spending on Louisville's parks in an equitable manner.

An action plan to address Louisville park inequity received a $1 million donation from Owsley Brown III, Brooke Brown Barzun and Augusta Brown Holland.

The plan comes after a “parks for all” study done by the Parks Alliance of Louisville, a nonprofit focused on addressing park inequity.

The study underscored how the historic and current lack of investments in the city’s parks, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, have led to large inequities across the parks system.

“[They Brown siblings] have done this with the hope that it will inspire other philanthropists, businesses and residents to join us in building parks for all,” Parks Alliance of Louisville CEO Brooke Pardue said.

Since 2003, 20 of the city's more than 100 parks have received no capital investments. A majority received less than $500,000 each in that same time.

According to Pardue, this puts Louisville below the average when compared to similarly sized cities.

“In fact, we invest significantly less than our peers in both public and philanthropic spending,” Pardue said. “When you put it all together Louisville averages just $43 in spending per resident versus $118 in our peer cities.”

According to the data, the lack of investment has left 55% of Metro parks categorized in “poor” or “fair” conditions.

“Some parks get special treatment, while other parks get special mistreatment,” District 4 Council Member and chair of Metro Council’s Parks and Sustainability Committee Jecorey Arthur said.

Data showed communities in the city's South and West Ends had the greatest need for further investment. Arthur, a Democrat, said this is an issue that needs to be addressed not just for people today, but young and future generations.

“Because when my kids, when your kids, our grandkids, our cousins, our little people visit Victory Park in the California neighborhood, don’t they deserve the best?” Arthur said.

The action plan also outlines what kind of investment residents want to see.

The action plan recommends that funds focus on rehabilitation of existing parks, improving day-to-day maintenance and expanding recreational programming.

In order to achieve these goals, the action plan lays out a 15-year plan to steadily increase the funding the Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation department receives.

Mayor Craig Greenberg said Wednesday he plans to use the action plan, approved funding from Metro Council and additional funding from donations like the Brown family's, to make changes.

“We will approach the budget with fresh eyes and pledge to dedicate more financial resources over time to deliver fundamental and needed park and recreation services,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg said the city will begin its search for a permanent Parks and Recreation Department director, a position that’s been vacant since Dec. 2021, for which Metro Council has already allocated $24,000 for an executive search.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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