WINCHESTER — Clark County isn't heavily populated: fewer than 36,000 residents, according to the 2010 Census.
But the 30-acre park the town of Winchester is planning looks like something you'd find in a much bigger city with vast water features, top-of-the-line activity areas for children, trails, sculptural mounding with walking paths as a nod to the area's Native American heritage and a planned "iconic sculpture" with a uniquely Winchester presence.
The Greater Clark Foundation has been drumming up ideas for, and support of, the park locally and will fund up to $3.5 million to begin construction. A final cost estimate has yet to be determined.
The organization is a health legacy foundation with assets that came from the 2010 sale of Clark Regional Medical Center, a community-owned hospital at 1107 Lexington Avenue.
The park is the foundation's first public effort.
From Sept. 19-21, the foundation held a series of sessions for area residents to get a preview of the park's design. Residents who attended were not only pleased, but some were a little awe struck.
"It will be the envy of Lexington," said Michael Rowady, 95, an attorney who can recount just about every event in Winchester's development for the last nine decades. "On every publication that talks about places to go, that will be a highlight place. Where people will come, business will follow."
Charles Etta Simmons, 57, who works in a middle school library and has lived in Winchester all her life, was similarly excited about the park.
"We here in Winchester have never had anything like that," she said. Simmons remembers that she used to come to Lexington to see the fountain at Triangle Park downtown. Now Winchester will have its own fountain, and it will be even more stunning, she said.
"It's going to bring our community closer, too," she added.
State Sen. R.J. Palmer of Winchester said the park, "is a plan that our state's largest cities would be envious of. ... This can be a signature centerpiece of what that foundation is about, to make Winchester and Clark County healthier, but also to give it an identity."
Ground breaking for the park is expected either late in 2016 or early 2017. To be built on the former site of the Clark Regional Medical Center, the park will feature a 50-foot long, 16-foot high water wall fronted by a series of pop-up fountain jets that will convert to an ice rink in the winter.
The park will also provide walking trails; event garden spaces where it's envisioned that residents can do everything from have senior pictures snapped to have a wedding; adventure play areas for children; and walking trails.
Two Winchester residents, landscape architect Bill Esarey of wee landscape architecture and Melody Farris Jackson, a designer and visual artist for Metafour Designs, created the design.
Native plants will be used throughout. And the park plans a "signature sculpture" that will be unique to the area, "some kind of iconic sculpture that people will associate with Winchester."
The Greater Clark Foundation, which has been spearheading planning of the park, describes its mission as making the Clark County area "one of the best places in the country to live, work and play" and bases its investments on civic and economic vitality; educational attainment and health, well-being and quality of life.
Besides being a centerpiece for civic life of the community, the park will also add value to the neighborhoods adjoining it, said Jen Algire, a spokeswoman for the Greater Clark Foundation.
The planning process used ideas from the Project for Public Spaces initiative (Pps.org/reference/the-power-of-10) which has as its core belief, "that any great place itself needs to offer at least 10 things to do or 10 reasons to be there."
That includes places to sit, history to experience, people to meet, art to touch and music to hear. Above all, the project initiative believes public spaces have to provide enough interest and variety for people to keep coming back.
The foundation members looked at parks in Louisville designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture who also co-designed New York's Central Park.
"You need space that can be used a variety of different ways," Algire said.
Final design details are still being confirmed, Algire said. For example, the walking trail could be paved or mulched. The children's area is not being called a playground because the intent is to promote both gross and fine motor elements as well as learning skills.
A game being considered for the park consists of a flexible platform with a wheel on top. Games could be wirelessly uploaded that challenge a player's core muscles as well as their mental agility — and that allows park supervisors to see how often and when the equipment is being used.
"Taking down the hospital was an emotional experience for a lot of folks," Algire said of the hospital that served the area before the new medical center opened in 2012. "We want people to be excited and be able to make memories for the rest of their lives."