One of Louisville’s signature parks is adding a new feature certain to draw more visitors to the area and enhance the opportunity for recreational enjoyment of the Ohio River.
A public boat ramp and accompanying parking area planned for Shawnee Park will provide boaters with convenient river access below McAlpine Locks and Dam and the renowned Falls of the Ohio.
On Friday, Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Commissioner Rich Storm joined Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and other city officials in breaking ground near the park’s Louisville Loop trailhead for the joint project between Louisville Parks and Recreation and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
“This project shows the power of strong partnerships,” Storm said. “Expanding access to the river is a win for the community and all anglers, boaters and hunters of the Commonwealth.”
River-based recreation is important for many in Louisville, Jefferson County and the surrounding areas. That mirrors the interest in outdoor recreation across the state.
Each year, more than 2 million people fish, hunt, boat, or participate in other wildlife-related recreation in Kentucky.
“Fishing, hunting and boating are vital to Kentucky’s adventure tourism industry,” Berry said. “Together with wildlife watching, they contribute more than $5.9 billion to Kentucky’s economy.”
The project is a key infrastructure investment supporting the West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative to improve equitable access to nature in the community.
Last year, the city’s ECHO (Engaging Children Outdoors) program unveiled a new bicycle track near the planned boat ramp, and future plans include a modern outdoor education center to be nearby.
The Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) recently installed an underground water basin in Shawnee Park and has made several million dollars worth of improvements there. Those include new basketball courts at the site of the historic Dirt Bowl, new baseball fields, a new restroom and shelter, a new sprayground and updated walking path and a newly paved road through the park.
“The new boat ramp in Shawnee Park will provide a highly-sought-after recreational amenity in this historic Olmsted Park,” Mayor Fischer said. “I look forward to seeing it used by anglers, canoers and those looking to simply get out on the water and have some fun. Our dive and rescue teams from the Louisville Fire and Louisville Metro Police departments also believe it will greatly enhance public safety with better access to the Ohio River. I want to thank Kentucky Fish and Wildlife for their partnership on this important project.”
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife maintains more than 160 ramps statewide and its crews will build the two-lane concrete ramp at Shawnee Park. It also plans to create an area adjacent to the ramp for bank fishing access.
For its portion of the project, the department is using Sport Fish Restoration Program grant funds, which are derived from dedicated federal excise taxes on equipment used for fishing, and recreational boat motor fuels.
Louisville Parks and Recreation has contracted with private firms on the design and construction of an access road and parking area large enough to accommodate more than two dozen vehicles and boat trailers.
Construction could be finished this fall, barring inclement weather or other conditions that could potentially delay the project’s completion.
Designed by landscape architect and conservationist Frederick Law Olmsted, Shawnee Park sits along the Ohio River in Louisville’s west end just minutes from Interstate 264.
The new Shawnee Park ramp will provide a second Jefferson County location for boaters to enjoy the Cannelton Pool of the Ohio River, and it will be the closest Kentucky ramp downstream of McAlpine Locks and Dam and the Falls of the Ohio.
“The Ohio River is a tremendous resource for recreational boaters, and the Falls of the Ohio area offers some of the best fishing in the state,” Storm said. “Beyond improving recreational access, this ramp also will help our conservation officers’ efforts on the water and ongoing efforts to fight the spread of Asian carp. The Falls of the Ohio is a moderate barrier to these invasive fish, and the Cannelton Pool is the farthest pool upriver where we are seeing Asian carp in large numbers. We continue to work with our counterparts in Indiana to facilitate commercial removal of Asian carp in this area, and the Shawnee Park ramp will provide another access point to help make that happen.”
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