Op-Ed

Tell us by Friday how best to create great downtown park

An artist’s rendering of Town Branch Park as seen from the Oliver Lewis Way bridge. The Blue Grass Community Foundation is coordinating a campaign to raise $31 million to build and create an operating endowment for the park.
An artist’s rendering of Town Branch Park as seen from the Oliver Lewis Way bridge. The Blue Grass Community Foundation is coordinating a campaign to raise $31 million to build and create an operating endowment for the park. SCAPE Studio

The future Town Branch Park is envisioned to be a welcoming, beautiful place for all Lexingtonians and visitors to enjoy. That’s why we have launched a survey to gather ideas from people across Central Kentucky.

The Inclusive Park Survey will gather feedback on what makes public spaces open and inclusive of all people. Your ideas will help shape our approach for structuring a park design and programming plan that will create a welcoming environment. Each person is influenced by his or her personal history and experiences. Those insights will help create a richer park experience for everyone.

The survey, developed through a grant from Blue Grass Community Foundation, can be found at www.townbranchpark.org. Hard copies are available at all Lexington Public Library branches, and interpreter services are available upon request.

People can watch a video on our website first to get an idea of the possibilities and potential scope of the park. The video, created by Wrigley Media Group, can be viewed at www.townbranchpark.org. We are requesting that surveys be completed by June 15.

We also encourage folks to continue to visit the website, which will be updated as the planning and design process continues. In addition, citizens can follow and engage in the process through the park’s new Facebook and Instagram pages.

This is our first community-wide effort to listen and learn from all of Lexington about what makes a space welcoming and engaging. Questions on the survey cover how different people define and experience inclusion in public spaces and how Lexingtonians are currently experiencing local public spaces. Everyone will have the opportunity to share their ideas in addition to simply checking off multiple-choice questions.

The survey is part of the work of the Town Branch Park Partners, the community group tasked with ensuring that inclusion and access are integral to the design. By leveraging the networks of the project’s community-based partners, the group hopes to reach marginalized and often under-represented segments of the community.

The partners then will create an inclusive park document that addresses recommendations for the design, programming and operations of the park. The plan also will outline a process that prioritizes meaningful engagement with residents throughout the planning phase.

Their work will rely on the expertise and community input gleaned from the survey and other engagement tools. Earlier input showed that delving deeply into designing spaces that are inclusive is paramount to a successful park.

For example, when Gehl Studio conducted a Public Space Public Life Survey in 2015, it found that less than 5 percent of children in Lexington spent time downtown. In addition, both the Parking Lot Diaries and On The Table engagements highlighted local concerns to ensure that public spaces were even more inclusive, both in terms of the design process and programming.

This 10-acre park in the heart of downtown will serve as a trailhead for 22 miles of uninterrupted bike and pedestrian trail systems that link the urban core to Lexington’s iconic countryside.

But more than connecting spaces, it will connect people by providing a welcoming, engaging space for residents of all ages and backgrounds to interact with each other and meet new people.

We want this to be the people’s park. Your input will help ensure that Town Branch Park is not only extraordinarily beautiful, but also contributes to the vitality of all of Lexington.

Allison Lankford is executive director of the Town Branch Fund, which will oversee the fund-raising, design, engineering and construction of the park.

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