Splash! water play project breaks ground in Lexington’s east end

According to the mayor's office, the total cost of the project is estimated at $1.5 million

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ/PRESS RELEASE) – A new water play project in Lexington will soon make a splash in the East End Neighborhood’s Charles Young Park.

Monday, Mayor Linda Gorton, several sponsors, and councilmembers broke ground on Splash!

“A new playground, resurfaced basketball courts, and now Splash! will make Charles Young Park a real attraction in the East End,” said Gorton. Splash! is largely funded by private donors. The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.5 million, with $1.3 million coming from private funds.

Town Branch Commons Trail, in the final stages of completion, runs right by Charles Young, making it easy for families to walk or cycle to the park. The trail connects several public spaces downtown.

In 1930, when the city bought four acres downtown for Charles Young Park, it was the second parcel of land purchased to serve the recreation needs of the African-American community in what was then a segregated city, according to the mayor’s office. Like its namesake, now Brigadier General Charles Young, the first African American to achieve the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Army, the park has overcome its humble beginnings. Brigadier General Young recently received a posthumous honorary promotion.

According to the mayor’s office, Splash! will be a large, interactive water feature, telling the story of Brigadier General Young, who was born in Mays Lick. The water feature will also educate visitors about the rich cultural history of the East End neighborhood and the Park.

Splash! will also draw upon the Bluegrass landscape, mimicking karst, creeks, and streams found in rural areas. According to the mayor’s office, the water play area will include recirculating water bubbling up from stones, crossing water arches, and a constant shallow stream surrounded by stepping stones and artificial turf mounds for play or sitting.

Plans call for the addition of trees to cool off the area, as well as include native plantings. The project includes renovation of the existing restroom building.

Mayor Gorton says community input was important and, “Splash! has been designed to appeal to children of different ages and abilities.”

Councilmember James Brown said, “Splash! will be treasured and enjoyed by the families of the East End because they helped design it. Like the new playground in Charles Young Park, every aspect of this water play feature was envisioned and developed by neighborhood residents through community engagement and partnership.”

Several partners have made Splash! possible, Gorton said, including Blue Grass Community Foundation.

“Breaking ground for Splash! at Charles Young Park is a dream more than a decade in the making,” said Lisa Adkins, president/CEO of Blue Grass Community Foundation. “Splash! is strongly aligned with the Community Foundation’s focus on equitable greenspace development and continues our longstanding commitment to invest in Lexington’s downtown and East End neighborhoods. But, we didn’t do this alone. BGCF’s Knight Foundation Donor Advised Charitable Fund issued a $600,000 challenge match – and the Community Foundation, along with a number of charitable partners, answered the call.”

Bluegrass Community Foundation gave a total of $1.05 million to the project. According to the mayor’s office, Splash! also received a $250,000 grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation’s Building Better Communities Grant, administered by the National Recreation and Park Association.

“Kentucky American Water and our parent company, American Water, are so proud to have been a strong supporter of Lexington’s parks for decades because we know that, just like quality water service, parks play a significant role in a community’s quality of life,” said Nick Rowe, president of Kentucky American Water. “This park will provide safe water play for all ages and abilities, in an area of town so deserving. It’s special that it is located near a trail celebrating our city’s first original water source, and that it celebrates the life and work of an African-American leader who, despite the racial challenges of his time, accomplished and contributed so much for our country, and still serves us today as a role model and inspiration.”

The Charles Young Center and the adjacent park are now both listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The Charles Young Center Advisory Board is committed, along with the city and various funding partners, to bringing a community-based and family-friendly recreational atmosphere to the center and neighborhood park,” said Charles Field, a representative of the Charles Young Center Advisory Board.

According to the mayor’s office, construction is expected to continue through 2022, with completion in Spring 2023.

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