Kentucky is exorcizing another Jefferson County ‘ghost city’ haunting the state’s books
The once-thriving city of South Park View was demolished by the airport roughly 20 years ago. But it still lives on in Kentucky’s registry of cities. Now, it’s finally being put to rest.
If you’ve flown into the Muhammad Ali International Airport, there’s a good chance you’ve walked right by what you might say is South Park View’s headstone.
It’s a bronze plaque that reads: “Louisville International Airport is a pillar of the regional economy, due in part, to the sacrifices of our surrounding neighbors and neighborhoods.”
The plaque goes on to list several communities that were completely destroyed by the airport’s expansion, including the city of South Park View.
As recent as the late 1990s, South Park View was a bustling little community – one of the 83 independent cities that still exist in Jefferson County after Louisville’s city-county merger in 2003.
In old satellite images you can see dozens of little houses with driveways arranged side-by-side down suburban streets. Jacquelin Blan, one of the city’s last residents, remembers it fondly.
“We had our own laws and everything and paid taxes to our little city and… we were just very close knit there and we loved each other, you know, and it all broke apart,” she said.
South Park View’s last mayor, Eddie Rasnake, says in the early 2000s representatives from the airport told residents they were expanding. They claimed the noise of landing planes would soon be unbearable. So they offered to buy people’s property.
“This was a noise reduction act and they figured it was cheaper to buy the people out than it was to go in and reinsulate homes, put in new windows and all that,” he said.
Most people jumped at it. But not Mayor Rasnake.
“It was nothing but a scam to get the people out to where they could build more businesses right around the airport,” Rasnake said. “That’s what it was all about.”
Over years of pressure though, even Mayor Rasnake left. By 2013, only two houses remained. Jacqueline Blan lived in one of them, all alone.
“You can imagine how lonely and scared I was,” Blan said.
She said, before the empty homes around her were demolished, scavengers would come.
“They’d break into houses and steal any of the copper and anything in there they could find after people were gone,” Blan said.
Blan’s daughter eventually convinced her to move too. And by 2020, the U.S. Census listed South Park View’s official population at 0.
These days, the lots are just thorny woods and the streets are chock full of empty UPS trailers, parked end to end as far as the eye can see. But, like a stubborn ghost, South Park View still haunts Kentucky’s official database of cities.
Until last year, there weren’t a lot of good ways to remove ghost cities from the state’s books. Then the legislature passed a law requiring cities to perform a one-time pulse check by sending basic information to the Department for Local Government.
South Park View didn’t say boo.
And nobody showed up to a recent public hearing on its dissolution either.
Four other Kentucky cities are now slated for dissolution: Blandville, Monterrey, Poplar Hills and Vicco. The state recently recommended dissolving Poplar Hills, another Jefferson County city located near the airport, and they expect they’ll do the same with South Park View.
Natalie Chadoin, public relations manager for the airport, said the sacrifices of cities like South Park View have had a positive economic impact on the city – creating jobs and bringing in billions of dollars.
“Cargo is huge, and we are a massive player on that global stage,” Chaudoin said. “Without those runways and the sacrifices and the changes that we made then – I don’t have a crystal ball but I’m not sure we’d necessarily be sitting in that position today.”
There’s still a comment period for residents to weigh in on the dissolution of South Park View. But officials at the Department for Local Government expect that before long, they can help the city officially rest in peace.