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February 28, 2006

Keep the neighborhoods alive and thriving — save Reservoir Park

by Torri Martin“Live, work and play.” That slogan was a former mayor’s call to arms for revitalizing downtown Louisville, and it seems to be working. But it appears that in focusing on downtown, the city risks turning its back on one of the principle resources that makes such revitalizations possible. We refer to Crescent Hill and similar neighborhoods that feed all aspects of this revitalization effort, and specifically to the Louisville Water Co.’s announced plans to eliminate important public green space at Reservoir Park in favor of a chemical storage, production and processing facility.Four years ago, my family purchased our first house, a home in Crescent Hill that backs up to Reservoir Park. For those four years, we have made downtown Louisville a central part of our lives. And while we are only one family contributing to the effort to make Louisville’s downtown a place to “live, work and play,” we also represent a target demographic of the city’s revitalization campaign — young professionals who work downtown, patronize downtown businesses and reside close to the heart of the city.Just a few years ago, the Cornerstone 2020 commission produced a comprehensive plan “for a more livable, attractive, mobile, efficient and environmentally sensitive community,” a plan that would “encourage economic growth while enhancing the unique character of our neighborhoods.” Louisville’s Cornerstone 2020 Web site says the purpose of the plan is to “reserve and promote stable, safe, attractive urban and suburban neighborhoods where residents share both a sense of pride and a sense of community” and to “rotect our parks and unique natural resources ...” One of the criticisms listed of Jefferson County’s old plan was that it offered “ittle public open space,” a deficiency to be rectified through “ore compact development that is integrated with public open spaces.”The Louisville Water Co.’s proposed construction of a chemical treatment and storage facility at Reservoir Park repudiates every principle on which that vision of Louisville was founded. In addition, Louisville Water Co. documents clearly state that it, unlike LG&E and other large utilities, is “publicly owned” and privately managed by a board appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Louisville Metro Council. In a very real sense, then, the Water Company and the land at Reservoir Park belong to all of us.Reservoir Park plays a large role in keeping Crescent Hill an attractive and valuable area on downtown Louisville’s doorstep, and it was a significant factor in our decision to move there. The park not only boasts a century-long history as open space, but it continues to serve a thriving role today in the well being of the Louisville community. And while the meadow in question is not under the management of Metro Parks, it is the last significant public parkspace in Crescent Hill, a place where neighbors gather on a daily basis, and a pillar of Crescent Hill’s own continued vitality.Louisville’s future is bright, and we are excited about recent and proposed commercial developments, from Fourth Street Live and the Muhammad Ali Center to the planned Museum Plaza and the condominium project currently under way at the Crescent Theatre site on Frankfort Avenue. But it is inconceivable that at the same time Louisville looks to revitalize, it threatens to undermine one of the communities responsible for that revitalization. Crescent Hill is the best of the past merged with the best of the future.The Louisville Water Co. is a friend to the city and has long been a good neighbor to Crescent Hill residents. But the destruction of community space should always be an option of last resort, and the company has erred grossly in proposing to eliminate the open area of Reservoir Park without examining all alternatives. We ask that alternatives be sought, and that the open space of Reservoir Park be preserved for its highest and best use as a community park, not an industrial site. There is a public meeting with Louisville Water Co. officials and concerned citizens tonight at 7 p.m. at Field Elementary School, 120 Sacred Heart Lane. Visit www.savereservoirpark.org for more info. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com