Levi Jackson Park

“With just a little stroke of the pen we brought Levi Jackson back home. Now it belongs to the citizens of the city and county and we are so proud that we were able to do that.” Those were the words of Mayor Troy Rudder this morning after the city officially took control of Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park, which will now be just Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park since is no longer owned by the state.

Mayor Rudder joined members of the London City Council, London Tourism and state property official Jason Martin at the signing ceremony at city hall. New park superintendent Joey Engle introduced two members of his staff and said they are eager to get started improving the rundown state park.

The city has been working to gain control of Levi Jackson for several years after the state expressed a willingness to give it away due to a lack of money for its upkeep. The city will use tourism funds to maintain and expand the park. The deed represents about 900 acres and includes the Laurel County Fairgrounds and the J.M. Feltner 4-H Camp, which will continue to be leased by the state.

Town Center Park Progress

Work on the new Town Center Park next to London Elementary is progressing nicely under the supervision of Craig Mullins Construction of London. The stage area at the top of the park is taking shape, along with the restroom complex and drainage network.

At it’s regular monthly meeting Monday evening, City of London Tourism awarded a contract to architect David Zawko of Deco Architects to design a permanent shade structure, with artistic notes, in the center of the park and a matching clamshell cover over the stage.

Construction on the Town Center Park should be finished later this year.

Treetop Adventure Now Open

Treetop Adventure at Levi Jackson State Park is now open for the season!

The weather couldn’t have been better for opening weekend with spectacular sunshine, blue skies and warm temperatures. People traveled from all over the country to seek their adventure in the trees!

They had climbers from Arizona, Ohio, Washington State, Utah, Tennessee, Indiana, Holland by way of Michigan and counties all over Kentucky.

Come and join the fun on weekends in April:

Saturday 10a.m.-8p.m.
Sunday 12p.m.-8p.m.
Ticket Sales end two hours prior to closing.

Your treetop adventure awaits!

Groundbreaking for Town Center Park

Members of the London City Council, City of London Tourism and other officials broke ground today on the new Town Center Park, which will be located next to London Elementary School.

The park will provide green space in the middle of downtown as well as a venue for concerts and events. The project is named after the Town Center Motel that used to be at that location.

The first step of the development will be the removal of blacktop on the site and some underlying utility and sewer line repair.

The project will be let for bids next month with construction to begin in late winter or early spring.

Committee to study donation of Levi Jackson State Park

A committee will study the financial impact and other issues stemming from the proposed donation of Levi Jackson State Park to the City of London.

Mayor Troy Rudder told the City of London Tourism Commission Monday night that two auditors and two financial analysts will examine the impact the donation will have on the city.

“To help everyone with the decisions to come, I’ve formed a committee to look at the financial impact that Levi Jackson will have on both the Tourism budget and the City budget, both positive and negative,” the mayor said. “This process will give us a better idea of how we should proceed.”

The state wants to give the park to London because it doesn’t have the money for maintenance and upkeep. According to Rudder, the park has been without a superintendent since spring and will only have two full-time employees when the campground closes in November.

Earlier, London City Council passed a resolution signaling its intent to take over Levi Jackson and maintain it as a park.

Negotiations have proceeded on a positive track, and the transfer currently “is sitting on someone’s desk” in the state finance cabinet waiting for approval, the mayor said.

“We hope the transfer of Levi Jackson is getting closer, and as I told you and the council from the beginning, when we get copy of the proposed deed, Mr. (Larry) Bryson along with the rest of us will need to study it very closely for content,” he said. “Then we’ll take it to the city council for final approval.”

The city council has to approve the transfer because the city will own the 998 acres, but the tourism commission will provide the funds for the park’s operation.

The 4-person committee that will study the financial impact of the transfer includes Robert Abner and Donnie Cox, who are accountants with Christian Sturgeon and Associates in London. The company has audited the city’s books for about 25 years.

“Robert has been doing our audits for a long time and he knows the ins and outs of our budget and our cash flows,” Rudder said.

The other two members are Ward Stokes, market president for Cumberland Valley National Bank, and Phil Smith, financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual.

Mayor Rudder said he believes Levi Jackson Wilderness Road Park, as it’s proposed to be named, will need money for capital improvements initially, but will soon produce a “positive impact” for park patrons and the community.

Popular Whitley Branch Veterans Park to expand

One of London’s newest and most-popular community parks is about to get bigger.

The City of London soon will close on the purchase of about 10 acres of property adjacent to Whitley Branch Veterans Park, which will be used for another walking trail, additional parking and other activities.

The popularity of Whitley Branch has been gratifying to city officials but has left them scrambling to find ways to ease parking problems on busy days and congestion.

“We’re overused down there, no question about it,” said Mackey Williams, director of the city’s parks and recreation department. “We need to expand.”

The city plans to purchase 9.64 acres behind the park from the Durham family trust for a total price of $165,000. The money will come from tourism funds generated by the restaurant tax.

The additional acreage will give Whitley Branch more parking and another trailhead next to Southeast Farm Supply. Another access point will be across from the dog park where a bridge will be built leading to the new addition.

“As soon as we close on the property we will start to build the entranceway,” Williams said. “We have to remove some trees first, both for better access and to make other trees more healthy. Then we will start laying out the trail to make it ADA compliant.”

The new trail will be about a half-mile long and will connect with existing trails in the park. The property is more hilly, which will make the trail a bit more of a challenge for walkers.

“It will be a moderate walking trail, versus an easy walking trail in the rest of the park,” Williams said. “We also hope to put in a Frisbee golf area, unless we can find a better usage. It will be a dual-use addition.”

Mayor Troy Rudder said residents have asked for a more-challenging walking trail and other amenities at the park.

“The new acreage will add to the hiking trails, but there will be some incline now,” he said. “We’ve been asked for a more strenuous walking experience from some of our visitors, and this new addition will do just that.”

Williams said new restrooms at Whitley Branch hopefully will be finished by mid-summer, once officials in Frankfort have signed off on the plans.

Warm weather brings people to the park in droves to use the walking trails, playground or dog park.

”For a parks department this is the best problem we can have, knowing that we’re serving all of the community,” Williams said. “That’s been our goal from the beginning is to build a park system that is all-inclusive, for all ages. This is just another step in that direction.”

Along with the veterans park, significant enhancements have been made to all city public spaces since the inception of the restaurant tax and City of London Tourism Commission, including completion of the Wellness Park and Treetop Adventure at Levi Jackson State Park, and improvements to Mill Street Park.

New Town Center project

London officials to unveil new Town Center project

The City of London and City of London Tourism are excited to unveil plans for a new public space right in the heart of downtown.

The project, appropriately called Town Center, is now a vacant lot on Main Street between East Ninth and East Maple Streets next to London Elementary School.

The city recently purchased 1.42 acres from Catholic Health Initiatives, who acquired the property in the early 2000’s to use for parking for Marymount Hospital just up the hill on Ninth Street.

The lot became available when a new St. Joseph London hospital was constructed at Exit 38 on I-75, and Marymount Hospital was demolished.

While the name of the space may change once final plans are completed, the project name pays homage to the former motel that stood on the property before CHI purchased it.

City and tourism officials, along with other stakeholders, will have the opportunity to define the scope of the project at a design workshop, with a detailed master plan to follow within six months.

Some ideas for the vacant lot have already been discussed. They include:

•Creating a space that is inclusive for many activities including but not limited to concerts, festivals, ice skating, art shows, etc.

•Planning for a stage/performance area, bathroom facility, green space and lush tree canopy.

•Designing the space to be adaptable and allow for heavy foot traffic.

Additional ideas and concepts will be gathered during the design phase of the project.

Town Center Park is the result of a concerted effort by city and tourism officials to expand park and wellness facilities and to draw tourists to London using the city’s three percent restaurant tax.

The new Whitley Branch Veterans Park will be dedicated following the veterans parade in London at 1 p.m. Saturday. The park on Dixie Street includes the Rotary playground, walking track, picnic area and bark park for dogs. In addition, new shelter houses and restrooms facilities will be completed over the next year.

Significant enhancements have been made to all city public spaces since the inception of the restaurant tax and tourism commission, including completion of the London-Laurel County Wellness Park and Treetop Adventure at Levi Jackson State Park, plus improvements to Mill Street Park.

Veterans Park

Finishing touches are being made on the Whitley Branch Veterans Park on Dixie Street, which includes a playground, walking track, picnic area and bark park for dogs.

To honor veterans, a flag display is being built at the Dixie Street entrance. In addition, six steel benches will be scattered along the walking track and will be embossed with the six main branches of the U.S. Military; Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard.

“We wanted a place where we can tell our veterans that it’s for them,” London Mayor Troy Rudder said. “It’s a way to thank them for our freedom.”

 

New Broken Spoke Mountain Trail at Levi Jackson State Park

The five-mile trail begins at the riding stables next to the entrance to the Laurel County Fairgrounds, weaves in and out of the forest near the Feltner 4-H Camp, skims along a ridge next to Crooked Creek Golf Community then circles back to a new parking lot in front of the stables.

Broken Spoke, which has been in the planning stages for more than two years, resulted from a partnership between Levi Jackson employees, the Friends of Levi Support Group, a dedicated group of volunteers and City of London Tourism.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea to develop a trail system in a beautiful area of the park that no one is using,” said Levi Alley, a London banker who helped restart the Friends of Levi, along with park superintendent Ben Sizemore.

Bringing more tourists to London is why the tourism commission decided to give $25,000 to Levi Jackson to ramp up construction of the mountain bike trail. The partnership between the commission and the park spurred the development of Treetop Adventure, which has proven itself as a major tourist draw.

“Levi Jackson State Park is a nearly 800-acre asset sitting right in the heart of our community,” City of London Tourism director Chis Robinson said. “The more this property can be utilized to support tourism and improve the quality of life for our residents, the better our community will be.”

Local cyclist Keith Cottongim has been hacking away on his own for a couple of years to expand existing trails in the park so he can ride his mountain bike.

“I only live a few miles from the park, and I’d come up and ride some of the existing trails that were already in there,” he said. “I thought it would be more fun to extend the trails through the forest and use the topography to make it a true mountain bike trail.”

 

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