September 19, 2012

Book: ‘Parklands of Floyds Fork’ introduces Louisville’s new park

‘A Landscape and Its Legacy: The Parklands of Floyds Fork’
By Dianne Aprile, designed by Julius Friedman. 21st Century Parks; 195 pgs., $75.

The best way to take in “The Parklands of Floyds Fork” might be to stretch the coffee table-sized book across your lap and dive right in at the beginning — letting the words and images that tell the story of Louisville’s new 4,000-acre park along Floyds Fork flow right along, like the creek, page after page.

But “start to finish” might not be the ideal way to experience the park, as we find out in the book by author/editor Dianne Aprile, designed by Julius Friedman. For one thing, the Parklands of Floyds Fork stretches over 20 miles, and naturalist Michael Gaige estimates it would take a whole year to get from one end to the other.

Well, a whole year, that is, for a turtle Gaige encountered several times in the course of “inventorying” the park. A persistent traveler, this turtle — though operating mostly in his own neighborhood. But he could do the entire park’s length if he wanted to. And so could a human hiker, following a trail under construction that will extend the length of the eastern Jefferson County property, from Shelbyville Road to Bardstown Road.

But a better plan than seeing it all, Gaige and others suggest, might be to see just some of it. Find a few favorite places and come back to them often, learning more with each visit: Imagining how the landscape has changed from fossil days to the bucolic farm and forest forms of present day. Discover who is calling this place home, and what the leaves are saying as they rustle in the trees. What the creek is babbling about as it falls over riffles.

That’s the way the trio of “Parklands” photographers did it. At first, photographers Bob Hower, Ted Wathen and John Nation split the territory into three sections, with the idea that each would take a section, then switch with each change of season. “But at the end of the first season, we all wanted to stay where we were to see what would happen as the seasons changed,” Nation says.

Then what the next year would bring.

“I remember one morning it was so cold, so rainy, snowy … just miserable,” Nation says. “The mist was almost frozen in the air.”

But all three shutterbugs shot that day. Wouldn’t miss it.

“That’s when you want to be there, when the weather is the most extreme,” Nation says. “Then you see extreme things. And just … create.”

One spring day, Nation waited until dusk to shoot a little meadow in the forest. “It had to be after sundown, so the wind dies down and everything is absolutely still,” Nation says. “I think I shot it with about an eight-second exposure.”

The image finds the meadow grass colored deep emerald green. Brown trees tinged twilight blue. Wildflowers still white in last light.

Gaige’s vignettes paint a word picture of little things. He hears a barred owl ask, Who cooks for you … who cooks for you all? In another neck of the woods, a great horned owl hoots, Who’s awake? Me, too.

Bob Hill writes about the people and places of The Fork. He finds a man determined to tap his own trees to make maple syrup, a by-gone days distillery where holdup men once stole $11,750 of “Old Boone,” and a “gingerbread village” called Munchkinville.

Hill follows the footpaths of pioneer Col. John Floyd, for whom the fork is named, coming across the Appalachians as a surveyor in 1774, living at Boonesborough, then on to the Falls of the Ohio to help found Louisville. A couple years later, Floyd was commanding a Revolutionary War privateer, fighting the British on the high seas. Floyd was captured and imprisoned in England. But after the conflict, he returned to build five “stations” along the headwaters of Beargrass Creek. Then died fighting Indians in 1783. Just 32. “He got killed too soon,” says biographer Neal Hammon.

Dan Jones, the CEO of 21st Century Parks, which administers the Parklands of Floyds Fork, says the park’s creation follows the legacy of designer Frederick Law Olmsted in looking to the future. Jones notes Olmsted’s Louisville parks and parkways were built on the edges of the city in the 1890s, “but today adjoin some of the most livable neighborhoods in the nation.”

Visitors and future neighbors will find the Parklands multi-use, but slanting to the natural.

“Always shadowing the central thread of Floyds Fork,” Jones writes, “the design’s intent is to create a series of varied experiences, from the soft sibilance of a canoe sliding along the seam of a rapids, to the crack of a baseball bat, to the quiet contemplation of a rustic woods.”

The turtles and owls should like it, too.