Debating progress

Westport park proposal
receives mixed reviews from residents

Locals submit plans for expansion of park, boat ramp

By Levi King
Staff Writer

WESTPORT, Ky. (November 2005) – Concerned citizens of Westport, Ky., crowded into the old schoolhouse last month for a forum on the future of the town park. Those too late to find a vacant folding chair spilled into the adjacent room, gathering around the doorway to see and hear the presentation.

Westport Residents

Photo by Levi King

Residents gathered at the Westport
schoolhouse to voice their opinions
on the future of the Commons last month.

Excitement among some residents had erupted days earlier when Michael Braden and William Cooper, Westport residents, revealed to Oldham County Fiscal Court a plan for expanding the park. Braden called the forum to quell rumors and misconceptions and to take community input.
“This is not final by any means. We’re here to see what you want – if anything,” Braden said, asserting his neutrality. “ All we’ve done is roll up the ideas and put together a pretty picture.”
Braden and Cooper began working on the concept in 1999, and have since worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the University of Louisville, which already owns a small research station on the site. University of Kentucky architecture students also contributed to the study.
According to Braden, state and federal grants would be available for the project, and developers, individuals and organizations have pledged services or funding. Several audience members expressed skepticism, demanding a list of names, but Braden explained that the majority of donors wished to remain anonymous at this stage.
Currently, the two-acre park consists of a shelter, parking area, non-functioning restrooms, picnic tables and a two-lane boat ramp – Oldham County’s only public access to the Ohio River. The plan calls for improving or rebuilding the restrooms, expanding the ramp and parking lot, installing docks and lighting, and building a stage, shelter, community center, information center, basketball courts and walkways.
“If this is for Westport, why all the extra parking? We can walk there, you know,” shouted a woman in the rear.
Many residents felt that the park should be improved, but some were concerned that the plan could bring unwanted traffic to Westport. Highway 524, the curvy thoroughfare into Westport, is dangerous enough with the current speeders and out of town boaters, residents said.
“I’m against it,” said Bush Straughn, a longtime resident. “It’s big enough right now. Three-quarters of the vehicles you see there are from Jefferson County anyway.”
Following the plan would mean tripling the size of the park, and Braden said that 90 percent of the necessary properties are available for purchase.
The properties are zoned commercial, leading to worries that opportunistic businesses could snatch them. “My biggest concern is if we don’t build a park there, what will go there?” said Kathy Hockersmith of Friends of Westport. “Is that going to be an apartment building? A sports bar? Mini storage?”
Still others worried that expanding the park could lead to “mini malls” sprouting up in the quiet community. Shane Best, a 16-year resident of Westport, dismissed this notion. “A little bit of business is a good thing,” he said. “We’re not talking about building a Clarksville here. We’re talking about improving what we already have, which sucks.”
Nearly everyone agreed on the lack of county services in Westport. “You can set your watch by the law enforcement’s one drive through each day,” Braden said. “And then they’re gone for the day.”
Others complained that the county, charged with maintaining the park, is unreliable at emptying trash receptacles there. The Friends of Westport “get up every Saturday morning and collect trash along Hwy. 524 because the county can’t and won’t pick it up,” Hockersmith said.
She wrote down issues raised and pledged to deliver the list to Fiscal Court, since most residents can’t appear in person. Braden and Cooper will ask court officials to explore the park’s options.
Glenn Watson, who has lived on a ridge above Westport for 22 years, cautioned residents and planners against making an important decision in haste.
“If we do one thing, I hope we save a piece of history – the barn dance,” Watson said, nodding in the direction of Westport’s historic dance hall. “Westport is at a crossroads. We have to decide what kind of community we want to be. Somebody outside has already decided what they want for us.”

Westport Residents

Graphic by Darrel Taylor

Westport Park Concept.


• For more information on the park proposal, visit: www.oldhamahead.org. For more information on the Friends of Westport, call Hockersmith at (502) 222-1983.

Back to November 2005 Articles.



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