Louisville Metro Parks Department to decide whether Cherokee Park loop will reopen

Louisville Metro Parks Department to decide whether Cherokee Park loop will reopen
The scenic loop at Cherokee Park has been closed to vehicles since April 2020.
The scenic loop at Cherokee Park has been closed to vehicles since April 2020. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On a nice sunny day in Louisville, it’s almost a guarantee there will be people walking around Cherokee Park. For the past year, cars haven’t been allowed to drive on it due to COVID-19.

When the park closed in April 2020, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the change would give walkers, runners, and bicyclists who want to get outside more room to social distance and prevent large gatherings.

Louisville resident Cristal Fox is a frequent visitor of the park with her family as lived closed to the park for about 20 years. She said she’s glad the park has been closed to vehicles.

“I do think this has allowed people to use the park more,” She told WAVE 3 News. “I’ve used the park more!”

With the narrow lanes, normally one for cars and one for pedestrians, she said it’s been nice to only see people and no cars for the past year on the loop.

“While walking on it, you have a car come by you and if you’re not paying attention it can get really close,” she said. “I have two kids so walking on that path with my two kids, it’s a constant concern, but it hasn’t been lately and it’s been really great.”

She said it’s also been easier to social distance from others who are at the park with the extra space.

“Recently I’ve not seen any car in sight, which is really cool to be able to go for a walk in a decent-sized city and not see any cars and have deer. It’s crazy and I really like that,” Fox said.

For many other families, however, visiting the park hasn’t been an option for the past year.

“We haven’t actually gotten to use it in the last year,” Alex Turpen said. She has four kids under the age of six.

Turpen and her family have been frequenting other neighborhood parks instead, but she said she misses going to Cherokee Park.

“I miss it a lot,” she said. “I have so many pictures of us just from last spring even before everything closed down of all of us hiking on the trails, hiking by the creek, and it’s just such a bummer that we haven’t got to do that.”

Turpen said it’s hard for her family to visit the park without the access to drive inside the park.

“If we can’t kind of drive to where we need to go, it’s hard for us with their ages,” she told WAVE 3 News. “One of us ends up carrying somebody or they don’t want to stay in the stroller or everybody gets tired all of a sudden.”

She’s hoping the city will reopen the park to cars like it used to be, to make it more accessible for everyone, like her grandparents, who are in their 70s and have some mobility issues.

“Even just walking a quarter of a mile in would be really hard on them, it would be impossible for one of my grandmas and I feel like we should be making things more accessible, not less accessible,” she said.

The concerns over accessibility have been at the top of Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong’s mind, along with the Louisville Parks Department.

“We’re all in agreement that the most important thing is we make sure everyone feels like they have a role to play in the process and their voice is heard,” Chambers Armstrong said.

On Thursday, Chambers Armstrong and the Louisville Parks Department held a virtual meeting to talk about the Cherokee Loop and potential plans for it. Many residents want to know whether the loops at Cherokee Park and Iroquois Park will remain closed to cars. During Thursday night’s meeting, Chambers Armstrong focused specifically on accessibility.

The Parks Department said they are continuing to look at alternative options for the loop and there are many options including:

  • Looking at reopening part of the loop to Hogan’s Fountain
  • Alternating days traffic can drive through
  • Changing boundaries so there would be pedestrian-only areas, but also areas that still have vehicle access

A decision by the Louisville Metro Parks Department could come as early as next week.

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