Save Otter Creek Park!

(Trail map of Otter Creek Park from Facebook.)

Mentioned in passing yesterday during the Mayor’s Press Conference of Big Bad Budget Cuts (coverage from The ‘Ville Voice) was that Louisville Metro is planning on shutting down Otter Creek Park, its jewel of a park, located in Meade County near Fort Knox. The Courier-Journal has more details this morning on this stunning, saddening development:

Otter Creek Park, which gets roughly 500,000 visitors a year, will close indefinitely Dec. 14 as part of Mayor Jerry Abramson’s proposal to help find $20 million in budget cuts.

The Meade County park owned by Louisville loses $500,000 a year, which makes it too expensive for the city to continue operating, Abramson said yesterday.

It’s a decision that trail runners, mountain bikers and fly fishermen lamented yesterday as they face losing what they describe as a natural beauty and one of the area’s nicest parks.

And it means that the sixth annual Otter Creek Trail Marathon, which is expected to draw about 300 participants, could be the last time runners take to the park’s trails.

“Otter Creek is probably one of the greatest treasures” that the Metro Parks Department has, said Cynthia Heady, a regular runner at the park and organizer of the marathon.

But by closing the park in Meade County, Abramson said the city can save $180,000 for the last half of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. No full-time employees are losing their jobs, but will be reassigned to other spots in the park system.

The park contains a lodge and rental cabins, but the revenue generated is not enough to offset the cost of maintaining the park.

So the city plans to shut down and winterize the cabins and close the park to public access starting Dec. 14.

Jason Cissell, a spokesman for the parks department, said there will still be access to a nearby Girl Scout camp, and access is being worked out for the YMCA camp that operates there mostly in the summer.

With 500,000 visitors a year, it makes absolutely no sense that other possibilities to raise revenue have not been explored, including adding an entrance fee to the park. Even a nominal $1 entrance fee would cover the $500,000 per year loss — perhaps an entrance fee more in line with what visitors pay to National Parks would even make Otter Creek Park profitable.

Fortunately, Louisville citizens, as well as our friends elsewhere in Kentucky, aren’t happy about the planned closure, and are planning to make their voices heard. Already there is a Facebook Group called Save Otter Creek Park, and we will do our best to publicize grassroots efforts to change the Mayor’s terrible decision. We strongly urge you to join the Facebook group, call your Metro Council member, and get involved!

UPDATE, 1 PM: Here’s some information on who to contact in Louisville Metro government to express your disappointment at Otter Creek Park’s proposed closing:

Mayor’s Office
Metro Hall / 4th Floor
527 W. Jefferson St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 574-2003

Metro Council
601 W. Jefferson St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 574-1100
Address postal mail to individual Councilmember.

http://www.louisvilleky.gov/MetroCouncil/ – This site links to individual Councilmembers.

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4 Responses to “Save Otter Creek Park!”

  1. John Maher Says:

    Selling off public lands for short term financial gain is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard.

  2. stateofthecommonwealth Says:

    Agreed. The idea of selling off Otter Creek Park during the worst real estate market in a century is even more idiotic.

    Check http://saveottercreekpark.wordpress.com for updates on our grassroots efforts to save the park.

  3. Concerned citizen Says:

    Suggestions after last nights meeting include: (1) Establish a ‘steering committee’ instead of a Bd. of Directors since no determination has been made re: type of corporation, i.e., foundation or charitable corp. etc. This would allow the 10 or so people who volunteered to head the group to all work together to determine ‘next steps’; (2) establish ‘working committees to network with other groups, i.e., Louisville Sierra Club, Riverfields, possible church or school groups, civic organizations – to develop as many grass roots contacts as possible;(3) contact and solicit community organizers to assist with developing grass roots campaign (sadly, it is not enough to love the park – certain skills are necessary)….

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