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

LEO’s Interview with the Mayor and Otter Creek Park by joelhunt

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.


Mayor’s Community Conversations Schedule Set for 2009… by stateofthecommonwealth
January 13, 2009, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Events, Friends of Otter Creek Park News, Meetings

And somewhat unsurprisingly, the first one conflicts with the next Friends of Otter Creek Park meeting, on Monday, January 26th. Here’s the entire schedule, as posted today on the Louisville Metro website:

Monday, January 26*
Westport Middle School
8100 Westport Road
Map it
*4th Monday due
to MLK holiday

Monday, February 16
Moore High School – Theatre Room
6415 Outer Loop
Map it

Monday, March 16
Iroquois High School Gym
4615 Taylor Blvd.
Map it

Monday, April 20
Stuart Middle School Gym
4601 Valley Station Rd.
Map it

Monday, May 18
Newburg Middle School Gym
4901 Exeter Avenue
Map it

Monday, June 15
Ramsey Middle School Gym
6409 Gellhaus Lane
Map it

Monday, July 20
Carter Elementary School
3600 Bohne Avenue
Map it

Monday, August 17
Fairdale High School – Small Gym
1001 Fairdale Road
Map it

Monday, Sept. 21
Atherton High School – Small Gym
3000 Dundee Way
Map it

Monday, October 19
Southern High School – Large Gym
8620 Preston Highway
Map it

Monday, Nov. 17
Central High School – Large Gym
1130 W. Chestnut Street
Map it

Obviously, if community members upset with the closing of Otter Creek Park could get some face time with the Mayor, that would be beneficial.

C-J: Grant Rules Call for Opening 2 Trails at Otter Creek by stateofthecommonwealth
January 12, 2009, 3:38 pm
Filed under: OCP News

Interesting news today, from the Courier-Journal. Basically, in 2005 Louisville Metro received a $10,000 federal grant for improvement and development of two trails within Otter Creek Park, and by closing the park, there’s some question of the city being out of compliance. Read on for more details:

Louisville and Metro Parks officials are trying to figure out how they can comply with federal regulations without having to reopen Otter Creek Park.

The city closed the 2,600-acre park in Meade County last week to save about $180,000 for the rest of the fiscal year — part of the effort to deal with a projected $20 million revenue shortfall.

But in closing the park, the city also ended access to two trails for hikers, bikers and horseback riders that were developed or improved with a $10,000 federal grant obtained in 2005.

State officials recently advised the city that the rules on awarding the grant require that the trails be kept open for public use “in perpetuity.” Failing that, the city would be required to develop comparable trails elsewhere.

A complication is that the new location cannot simply be a different park. Rather, the replacements must be developed on newly purchased public land, said Jodie McDonald, branch manager and administrator of the recreational-trails program for the state Department for Local Government.

McDonald said that, because public access is essential, she didn’t see how the city could reopen the trails without reopening the park, whose entrances have been locked.

Under no circumstance does the city intend to reopen Otter Creek Park any time soon, said both Jason Cissell, a spokesman for Metro Parks, and Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Abramson.

“We are not going to do it,” Poynter said.

Cissell said Metro Parks officials expect to negotiate a solution with the Department for Local Government, which administers the trail grants provided by the Federal Highway Administration.

McDonald shot down two possibilities suggested by Metro Parks — that the replacement trails be developed in Jefferson Memorial Forest, which is already public land, or that the city pay back the $10,000.

McDonald said that if the city doesn’t come up with a solution that complies with the federal regulations, the state could lose about $1.3 million a year in federal recreational trail funding.

Cissell said that Metro Parks accepted the $10,000 grant in 2005, matching it with $10,000 of its own. The combined funding went to develop the 3.2-mile Boone Hollow Trail and to make improvements, including signage and drainage work, on a 2.2-mile existing trail named Red Cedar.

“If the fences and gates are locked, people can’t ride these trails,” McDonald said. “And the city then is in noncompliance” with the federal rules. She said her department is waiting for the city to suggest an acceptable alternative.

“We do not see this as a significant issue. We’re confident we’ll resolve this reasonably,” Cissell said.

John Mahorney of Louisville, a mountain-bike enthusiast, said he used the dirt trails at Otter Creek several times a year and has friends who used them weekly.

He said that, if they are not used, the trails will quickly “go back to nature.”

There had been some talk about this grant, and whether it would affect the city’s closure of the park at previous Friends of Otter Creek Park meetings, so it is nice to see that there is an actual basis behind what we’ve heard. Stay tuned for more…

C-J: Group Wants to Reopen Otter Creek by stateofthecommonwealth

The Courier-Journal ran a story this morning on the Friends of Otter Creek Park meeting from Monday:

Members of a new coalition called Friends of Otter Creek Park are working on several fronts to try to persuade city officials to reopen the 2,300-acre, city-owned park in Meade County.

Mayor Jerry Abramson’s administration closed the park last week in a move to save about $180,000 to help offset a projected $20 million revenue shortfall this fiscal year. City officials say the park will remain closed indefinitely.

Several hundred people attended a meeting at the Southwest Government Center on Dixie Highway Monday night to discuss what can be done to reopen the park.

Those in attendance passed a resolution to incorporate as Friends of Otter Creek Park, according to the group’s Web site,

They elected Donnie Basham, Joel Hunt, William Mudd, John Oliver, Bill Ralls and Angie White to a board of directors. They also elected Dave Baker as secretary and Kim Lucas as treasurer.

Patsy Bowman, who helped with the organizational effort, confirmed the information on the Web site.

The supporters set up several committees and will meet again at 7 p.m. on Jan. 26 at the Southwest Government Center.

The group hopes to offer the mayor a list of suggestions and ideas for reopening the park.

More than 5,500 people have signed up on a Facebook page in support of reopening the park.

If you’ve heard about us but still haven’t gotten involved, there’s no time like the present!

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

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

(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:

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, 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. – This site links to individual Councilmembers.

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

Agenda for Tonight’s Meeting by stateofthecommonwealth
January 5, 2009, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Events, Meetings, OCP News

This is tonight’s agenda — keep in mind that this is a suggested agenda, and any additional items that need to be added can be, with proper notice. Thanks and I hope to see you tonight!

I. Introduction and Welcome – Approximately 5 minutes

A. Short explanation of Committee Group – Joel Hunt

B. Ground rules for Meeting and explanation of Agenda – Joel Hunt

II. Introduction of Resolution to Officially Name Friends of Otter Creek Park – Approximately 10 minutes

A. Debate on Naming Resolution:

1. Speakers For (2 minutes each)

2. Speakers Against – if any (2 minutes each)

B. Voice Vote on Resolution

III. Introduction of Resolution to Legally Incorporate Friends of Otter Creek Park – Approximately 10 minutes

A. Debate on Incorporation Resolution:

1. Speakers For (up to 5 minutes each)

2. Speakers Against – if any (up to 5 minutes each)

B. Voice Vote on Resolution

IV. Election of Friends of Otter Creek Park Officers – Approximately 1 hour

A. Nomination of Chairperson(s)

1. Short Statements by Candidates (up to 5 minutes each)

2. Voice Vote on Chairperson(s)

B. Nomination of Secretary

1. Short Statements by Candidates (up to 5 minutes each)

2. Voice Vote on Secretary

C. Nomination of Treasurer

1. Short Statements by Candidates (up to 5 minutes each)

2. Voice Vote on Treasurer

V. Organization of Sub-Committees – Approximately 45 minutes

A. Proposal and Explanation of Sub-Committee Groups

1. Petitions and Volunteering

2. Public Relations and Media

3. Non-Profit and Charity Outreach

4. Government Liaison

5. Any Additional Sub-Committee(s) to be Suggested at Meeting

i. Short Discussion of proposed Sub-Committee (5 minutes pro and against)

ii. Voice Vote on Sub-Committee Formation

B. Volunteering of Sub-Committee Chairs and Members

VI. Questions and Comments from the Public – Approximately 30 Minutes, up to 5 minutes per speaker

Short Friends of Otter Creek Park Interview on 84 WHAS by stateofthecommonwealth
January 5, 2009, 2:35 pm
Filed under: Events, Media, Meetings, OCP News

(Otter Creek Park sign from

84 WHAS aired a short story on Friends of Otter Creek Park this morning. You can read the story here, and listen to it here. There’s a short clip of audio in the piece from when I was interviewed by Suzanne Duvall of 84 WHAS last Friday. Obviously they couldn’t use everything, but the short bit where I point out that Otter Creek Park is one of the things that makes Louisville “unique” was nice.

And as the story points out, please don’t forget tonight’s meeting at the Southwest Government Center, 219 Dixie Hwy #106 in Southwest Louisville at 7 PM!

UPDATE: Both WHAS-11 and WDRB-41 (clicking on the WDRB link will open Windows Media Player) mention the meeting tonight in news stories as well. Links courtesy the Valley Report.