Oldham County Fiscal Court
gathers input on park usage
Upgrading Westport's Schamback Park
ranks high onthe list among survey respondents
LA GRANGE, Ky. (February 2021) – Oldham County Fiscal Court is interested in how people use the county’s park system. With so many people using parks last year for recreation as a result of being homebound due to COVID-19, county officials and residents alike have realized just how important these parks are.
An online survey was released late last year by Fiscal Court to seek input on what activities people are interested in engaging in at the parks and what amenities need to be added or improved. A postcard survey will also be mailed out to residents as another way to gauge input.
District 6 Magistrate Stephanie Hawkins, chairwoman of the Oldham County Parks Committee, said she hopes to see 1,800 to 2,000 responses to this postcard survey. Other sources that will be used to get the word out include social media and local newspapers.
“We are requesting the survey be completed by February 14 so we can discuss the results at our 10 a.m. Parks Committee meeting on Feb. 16.”
Schamback Park in Westport, Ky., is high on the list of interest by those taking the Oldham County park survey.
Oldham County has six parks: Wendell Moor Park Complex, which contains the John W. Black Community Center and the John W. Black Aquatic Center (La Grange); Briar Hill Park (Crestwood); Schamback Park (Westport); Peggy E. Baker Park (Crestwood); Morgan Conservation Park (La Grange); and the 54 Acre Multi-Use Park (La Grange).
Members of the Parks Committee met on Jan. 19 to discuss the issue, and it was brought up later that same day at an Oldham County Fiscal Court meeting. The postcards will “go out to households all over the county,” said Hawkins.
To get a real feel for what residents want in their county parks “we need to get a viable number of answers,” said Magistrate Bob Dye. Many of the questions on both surveys are geared toward one particular park – Schamback Park in Westport – a park for which renovation plans have been in the works for several years.
Schamback Park consists of five acres along the Ohio River. Amenities include a boat ramp, kayak and canoe ramp, boat dock, picnic shelter with restroom facilities, playground, basketball court, several picnic tables and two fishing docks.
“I’m of the opinion that while constituents are not specifically asking us to improve upon Schamback Park, they are in fact asking us to improve upon the parks more frequently utilized for children and picnicking,” said Hawkins. So far, desires expressed for Schamback Park have been mostly to improve the traffic flow, boating ramps and bathrooms.
She said another specific request the Parks Committee is receiving is “for a Sports Park of sorts to be included into our future plans. I’m looking into this concept further as well as interviewing families who are requesting this type of venue.”
The committee frequently hears comments that students must commute to places like Blairwood Swim, the University of Louisville and Legends Baseball Academy. “Being the wealthiest county as well as the healthiest county in the Commonwealth, it is actually surprising that we do not have a county-owned and maintained indoor year-round facility to accommodate student and adult athletes with the sports which are so prominent within our community,” she said. “In addition to catering to the swimmer, basketball and baseball player, track runner and countless other athletes, this sort of complex would bring travelers into our hotels and patrons into our shops and restaurants.”
Magistrate Wayne Theiss, also a member of the Parks Committee, said, “After we get the results back, I’m in hopes we have another meeting and look at maybe three different options of what could be done at Westport Park.” He also hopes to “have at least one open house at the park or John W. Black Community Center, so we can go forward and what we do makes sense.”
Oldham County Parks & Recreation Director Gary Parsons said most of the parks need updates. He’ll take any information on any parks that people want to express. “Our first goal is looking at getting information on what people want at Westport. The more input we get, the better we can make it.”
Parsons added, “We will have to wait on the survey results, then we can move forward.” The next steps would include designing, public input and a final plan implemented in phases.
At both meetings on Jan. 19, the big issue was whether to remove trees along the shoreline at Schamback Park. Hawkins said she has spoken to “many citizens and not heard anyone say they wanted the trees at the river’s edge moved.” She said a professional came out and determined which trees should go, and which trees should stay.
Tetra Tech, a consulting company that focuses on engineering services, has been heading the park improvement project since Fiscal Court contracted with the company in April 2019. She said that “Tetra Tech can design around it (the trees).”
Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele said he has wanted the trees removed for a while. “I think they kill the vista,” he said. “They interfere with the sweep of the river. When there is a flood, they have a tendency to collect debris.”
Magistrate Albert Harrison, whose district in which this park is located, said that “some people say you need to keep them because they help with erosion.” He pointed out that a nearby community does not have a single tree along the river and contains three times the frontage. “There’s no appearance of erosion.”
In the long run, when improvements and construction are taking place, any trees left in place along the riverbank might have their roots disturbed and have to be removed. He said that “the trees have outlived their value. You would improve the park by planting new ones in a different location. There are already mature trees spaced on higher ground throughout the park.”
Previous improvements to the park include the removal of old structures from the 1950s that had become eyesores. “We’ve spent a lot of money there,” said Judge Voegele.
He had previously received a bid of $6,510 from the Bob Ray Co. to remove all trees on the water’s edge, the lowest bid for the job. He also pointed out that if the parking lot would have to be redone in the future, “the trees would just be in the way.”
Hawkins advocated the idea that “while we make efforts to beautify the rest of the park, we take the time and effort to beatify the trees along the river edge through thinning out the dead, dangerous trees and pruning the remaining strong, valuable shade trees.” Ultimately, Fiscal Court members voted seven to two to have the Bob Ray Co. remove the trees. This was expected to take place the week of Jan. 25.
Judge Voegele thinks this will only enhance, not harm, the view from the river’s edge. “We need progress and this will give us progress.”
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