Save Otter Creek Park – The Friends of Otter Creek Park Blog


Friends of Otter Creek Park Meeting TOMORROW, January 26th
January 25, 2009, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Events, Friends of Otter Creek Park News, Meetings, OCP News

The next Friends of Otter Creek Park meeting will be tomorrow, Monday, January 26th, at 7 PM at the Southwest Government Center at 7219 Dixie Highway (click here for a map).

This meeting’s focus will be on the Sub-Committees formed at the last meeting on January 5th. The Sub-Committees are:

1. Petitions and Volunteering
2. Public Relations and Media
3. Non-Profit and Charity Outreach
4. Government Liaison
5. Legal Issues and Liability Policy
6. Friends of Otter Creek Park Bylaws
7. Special Interest Groups

After a brief introduction at the beginning of the meeting, we will divide into these Sub-Committees to work on a plan of action for each, for approximately 45 minutes to an hour. After this group workshop time, the larger group will reconvene and the Sub-Committees will report on what they’re planning. If you’ve signed up for more than one Sub-Committee, there should be ample time to work in more than one.

If you CANNOT attend tomorrow’s meeting, you may want to consider attending the first of Mayor Abramson’s Community Conversations tomorrow night to express your support for reopening Otter Creek Park at Westport Middle School, 8100 Westport Road, in the East End (click here for a map). The Mayor’s Community Conversation begins at 6:30 PM.



Fox 41: How Lack of Security at Otter Creek Park Has Led to Vandalism
January 19, 2009, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Louisville Metro Government, Media, OCP News

Only on Fox: How lack of security at Otter Creek Park has led to vandalism

(Click link above for video of the story.)

Fox 41 WDRB is reporting that the closing of Otter Creek Park has led to vandalism inside the Park, with local authorities unsure of how to respond:

Earlier this month, the City of Louisville closed Otter Creek Park because of budget cuts.

When the park closed, the city said it worked out a deal with local law enforcement to patrol the park and provide security.

Officials in Meade County say that’s not entirely true. In fact, the sheriff says the park is virtually unprotected.

A sign at Otter Creek Park’s entrance says it all, “park closed, no trespassing.” The park has been closed since early January because of the city’s budget cuts that grew out of a $20 million shortfall.

A gate now blocks anyone from entering Otter Creek Park, but the city says a few unwelcome guests have trespassed. There have been a few reports of vandalism. There is one state Fish and Wildlife officer left to patrol more than 2,000 acres. The Meade County Sheriff says he’s not patrolling it.

“Absolutely not. My office has not been contacted at all about any increased patrol, asking for increased patrol for Otter Creek Park,” said Butch Kerrick, Meade Co. Sheriff.

Vandals have caused damage to the splash park and broken windows. Kerrick says he doesn’t have the funds to pay his deputies to patrol the park’s 2,600 acres.

The other nearby cities aren’t patrolling it either. Kerrick says the park is virtually unprotected.

“Per se, I doubt if anybody is watching it. It’s locked it’s got gates. It’s got big bar gates. We have no keys to them,” said Kerrick.

Kerrick says one of his deputies was called Sunday to remove a stolen four-wheeler but had to contact a local constable to gain access.

“That’s a concern that this may be a drop off area for stolen four-wheelers or anything else. If they can get four-wheelers or dirt bikes, next thing they’ll be taken vehicles in there, stripping them, burning them, whatever,” said Kerrick.

A Metro Parks spokesman says the city worked out a deal with the Brandenburg Police Department to provide security. But Brandenburg’s mayor says he was unaware of that arrangement.

Begging the question, who is responsible for a closed park?

“I would think it would fall back on the City of Louisville. I don’t see where the citizens of Meade County should have to pay or be responsible for what the City of Louisville got themselves into. It’s not our responsibility,” said Kerrick.

A Metro Parks spokesman says the city cannot afford to re-open the park at this time. The spokesman said the city has an arrangement with “some” law enforcement in Meade County.

If that’s the case, both the mayors of Brandenburg, Muldraugh and the Sheriff of Meade County seem to be unaware of it.

Apparently Louisville Metro has no arrangement for law enforcement within the Park by nearby agencies, despite claiming so. One wonders how much damage has been done, and whether said damage will be expensive to remedy if and when the Park ever reopens.



LEO’s Interview with the Mayor and Otter Creek Park

If you haven’t seen it by now, we wanted to make you aware that LEO Weekly‘s issue this week includes their extensive annual interview with Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, who has quite a bit to say about both the controversy surrounding the closing of Otter Creek Park, and our group, the Friends of Otter Creek Park. Here’s the relevant parts of the interview (you can read the entire interview here):

LEO: Another group that is getting louder by the day—

JA [Jerry Abramson]: Otter Creek.

LEO: Yes, the Friends of Otter Creek.

JA: It is very simple to explain to you why we moved in that direction. For many years, I’ve had this discussion with six governors — I’ve been mayor a long time — we have thought that this magnificent park, this very, very unique jewel of a wilderness setting and just gorgeous landscape, needed to be a state park. Because we don’t do a very good job running it, because we know how to run municipal parks — we can handle Cherokee Park, we know how to do Iroquois Park, we can handle Shawnee Park, we know how to handle Hays Kennedy Park or Long Run Park, etc. — but we don’t do very well in terms of a park that has cabins and hookups for RVs, for electricity and water.

So we have said we lose money every year; we used to lose $500,000 a year. We’ve tried to get governors to take it over. There was always a reason not to. I tried to work with the federal government, to have Fort Knox take it over; there was always a reason not to. We talked with the Meade County judge — it’s in Meade County — several judges ago, and asked him if we could serve wine. Maybe if we could serve wine and champagne, there might be an opportunity to host more events, which would help cover some of the expenses to defray the cost — because if you’re spending $500,000 out there, you could’ve spent the $500,000 at … parks within Louisville-Jefferson County. We tried to get the liquor license; the county judge made a commitment they would vote it wet, and then at the fiscal court meeting, he voted no.

… At this point in time, when you’re looking for a half a million dollars, and you’re also looking for money that you can save for these six months that will roll forward because this next budget’s going to be even tougher, we said we’re going to close it, and see if that would generate interest. [emphasis ours]

And you know what? The state parks are going out there, the state Fish & Wildlife [department is] going out there, I met with the garrison commander of Fort Knox — they’ve been out there twice. So all of a sudden, there’s a lot of energy around in terms of what can we do to ensure that the park is open as soon as possible? The county judge in Meade County is interested, he’s said, in making it an industrial park, or a residential area. Well, we’re not going to allow it to be developed into an industrial facility. We want it to be what it is: a beautiful wildlife preserve, an opportunity for folks to commune with nature. We’ve also got nonprofits that have contacted us: the Y[MCA] has a facility out there, [Boy] Scouts, saying what role can we play?

Suffice to say, we’re working on crafting a response to Mayor Abramson’s comments, to be published in LEO as soon as possible. We’re also very interested in meeting with him to discuss Otter Creek Park, anytime. However, there’s some elements of this interview that, based on just our initial impressions from reading it, we have to respond to.

According to Mayor Abramson above, closing Otter Creek Park was actually a ploy to save it! Somehow, we’re not buying this argument. Louisville has a number of private/public partnerships and quasi-governmental groups dedicated to serving citizens. Off the top of my head, I can think of the Olmstead Parks Conservancy, the Downtown Development Corporation, Greater Louisville Inc., Waterfront Development Corp., etc. If Otter Creek Park has been such a drag on the city’s budget year after year, why wasn’t any initiative taken to fix the problem before closing the Park? The savings of closing OCP reportedly only comes to $180,000 per year — why was there no effort to try to find that money from sources other than Louisville Metro’s budget?

Which goes on to the second problem of finding a group — whether governmental or otherwise — to run the Park now: how does closing the Park complicate the problems it already has? What hidden costs might be added as a result of the closing? Certainly while closing Otter Creek Park to visitors has kick-started our group’s activism on behalf of the Park, it has also hurt interest in OCP by both local residents and visitors from elsewhere. Sure, it’s winter, and that’s the slowest season for outdoor recreation, but closing the Park entirely has to have had a “chilling effect” (pardon the pun). Additionally, since the Park isn’t being maintained, what start-up costs will a potential buyer/operator have to contend with? Wouldn’t the Park be more attractive if it was still open and being maintained?

The Mayor goes on to discuss Friends of Otter Creek Park within the context of “citizen enragement”:

LEO: I was at a community meeting [last] week in the southwestern part of the city. It’s been my experience at some of these meetings, including some where you’ve been there, that they start off on issues — and this one was about Otter Creek Park — and they get derailed into criticism of you, conspiracy theories about you and your administration. It seems to me this is the only part of the city where this happens with such regularity and drama.

JA: Citizen engagement is great. The fact that there are individuals pulling together to set up a Friends of Otter Creek, to look at options, to work with me ultimately on how we can keep it open. I think citizen engagement is great.

What troubles me are those that are involved in citizen enragement, and I’m afraid that in the area you’re referencing, there are two or three individuals who take much more pride in involving themselves in citizen enragement rather than citizen engagement.

… Citizen enragement, with sometimes not sharing the facts, framing the issues in a way that enrage rather than involve — unfortunately there have been a couple of folks out there in that area that have done that more than once, on more than one issue. And so it is what it is: We work with the folks who want to work with us.

I can’t speak for anyone else involved in Friends of Otter Creek Park in terms of their feelings towards Mayor Abramson. Given that our group consists of a large, diverse group of individuals from all over the surrounding region — including people who don’t live in Louisville Metro — it’s fair to say that there is probably not one, monolithic point of view given Louisville’s Mayor.

Speaking for the group, however, I will say that Friends of Otter Creek Park is ready to work with Mayor Abramson or any other government official, organization, charity, or group willing and interested in reopening Otter Creek Park. Period.

That said, our meetings are open to the public, and we value what everyone in the community has to say — otherwise we wouldn’t bother with public comment periods at our meetings. As far as I’m concerned, Friends of Otter Creek Park is about finding a solution to the problem through democratic and transparent means. The citizens of Louisville Metro and Jefferson County don’t deserve any less than that.



Friends of Otter Creek Park: We’re Gettin’ Organized!

Perhaps you’ve noticed by now that we’re a little bit biased, but I’ve gotta say, I couldn’t be more pleased with the way tonight’s Friends of Otter Creek Park meeting was conducted. A big thank you goes to Patsy Bowman, Angie White, and Kevin Martin who helped organize the meeting and kept it running smoothly. Another thank you goes to Louisville Metro Council Members Bob Henderson and Doug Hawkins, and Legislative Aide Renay Davis for attending. Most of all I’d like to thank everyone who showed up, spoke their mind, and got involved! We had a packed house tonight, I’m guessing at least roughly 100 more attendees than our meeting on December 22nd, and we accomplished quite a lot in just 2 1/2 hours.

Speaking of which, let’s get down to the business of recounting the business of the meeting. As you can see from the agenda posted below (link here), we needed to get a few organizational aspects accomplished to move the group forward towards our ultimate goal, which is the reopening of Otter Creek Park. I feel that we were able to accomplish tonight’s agenda in a positive, democratic and transparent way wherein anyone who wanted to speak, could. Our first Resolution (which passed by a near-unanimous voice vote) involved the official naming of the group, which is now known as Friends of Otter Creek Park. Here’s the entire text of the resolution:

Resolved, that the organization generally known as Friends of Otter Creek Park — which includes many of the concerned citizens of Louisville, Jefferson County, Hardin County, Meade County and many other municipalities — be officially named Friends of Otter Creek Park in all correspondence, including interviews with the media, liaisons with government, volunteering and fundraising efforts, and general business.

Our second Resolution (also passed by a near-unanimous voice vote) was a declaration of exploration of the possibility of Friends of Otter Creek Park incorporating as a non-profit organization. There are differing views on whether this is the right course of the group — and again, I am happy to say that I feel that those views were fairly represented — but I felt that this resolution would be a start in pointing a possible way forward for the group to conduct business. As far as I consider it, this resolution is non-binding, and merely a suggestion. Here’s the text of Resolution Number 2:

Resolved, that the Friends of Otter Creek Park be legally incorporated as a non-profit organization registered with the State of Kentucky and the Louisville Metro government, and that its business be conducted in a transparent and open manner. Additionally, the officers of Friends of Otter Creek Park shall solicit legal advice on the matter of incorporating by no later than January 31, 2009, with the goal of formerly incorporating by February 1, 2009.

With those two important resolutions passed, we then set upon the work of electing Officers of Friends of Otter Creek Park, in order to have a solid team of individuals leading the group’s efforts. I’m pleased to announce that the following people were elected to head the Friends of Otter Creek Park board: Donnie Basham, Joel Hunt, William Mudd, John Oliver, Bill Ralls, and Angie White. For now, Officers can be contacted through saveottercreekpark@gmail.com.

(Newly elected Board Chair John Oliver addresses the crowd.)

Then, we elected the positions Secretary and Treasurer. Dave Baker (who also is an administrator of the Save Otter Creek Park Facebook group) was elected Secretary, and Kim Lucas was elected Treasurer. A motion from the floor to establish these positions as three-month terms was voted on and accepted.

Next, we voted on a number of Sub-Committee Groups to help steer the actions and outreach of Friends of Otter Creek Park. The four groups from the agenda — Petitions and Volunteering, Public Relations and Media, Non-Profit and Charity Outreach, and Government Liaison — were accepted by voice vote, and three suggested groups from the floor — Legal Issues and Liability Policy, Friends of Otter Creek Park Bylaws, and Special Interests — were adopted. IMPORTANT: If you signed up to volunteer for one or more of these groups, you will be contacted by phone or by email in the next few days! Additionally, we didn’t get any volunteers for the Legal Issues and Liability Policy group, so if you have an interest in this group but haven’t volunteered, PLEASE DO SO!

The last item, but certainly not the least, on the agenda was a public forum for your questions, comments, and concerns. What followed was a lively and positive discussion from all corners of the room, covering a wide range of aspects of what we’re ultimately all meeting for: to reopen Otter Creek Park! I thank each and every person who stood up to speak their mind.

Additionally, I’d like to thank the members of the news media who attended the event: Stephen George from LEO Weekly (read his story here), WLKY 32 (who ran a piece on tonight’s 11 O’Clock News), The Local Weekly (read their story here), and anyone else I might have missed. Also, you can read Brian Tucker’s excellent summary of the night on his always-great Valley Report blog here: http://valleyreport.blogspot.com/2009/01/its-official-friends-of-otter-creek.html.

So with tonight’s success in mind, we still have a lot of work to do. Friends of Otter Creek Park will next meet on Monday, January 26th, again at the Southwest Government Center at 7 PM. I expect that a major part of the agenda will be to hear ideas on what each volunteer sub-committee can do. Additionally, I hope to present to the group research concerning many aspects of OCP’s closure, including the liability costs associated with entrance fees, the Metro Council budget process, and much more.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do:

  1. VOLUNTEER — If you missed the meeting or didn’t get the chance to sign up for a volunteer sub-committee, email me at saveottercreekpark@gmail.com, and we’ll get you started.
  2. TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY ABOUT US — we need as many people involved as possible! If you were able to get blank petition forms, get your friends and family to sign up! And I promise we will have the petition available for downloading off this site in the next few days.
  3. WRITE YOUR COUNCILPERSON AND MAYOR ABRAMSON— Unbelievably, there are still some Friends of Otter Creek Park supporters who have not contacted their Louisville Metro representatives. But it’s never too late! Here’s how:

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.

Thanks again everybody, and we’ll see you on the 26th!