receives mixed reviews from residents
submit plans for expansion of park, boat ramp
WESTPORT, Ky. (November 2005) Concerned citizens
of Westport, Ky., crowded into the old schoolhouse last month for a
forum on the future of the town park. Those too late to find a vacant
folding chair spilled into the adjacent room, gathering around the doorway
to see and hear the presentation.
by Levi King
gathered at the Westport
schoolhouse to voice their opinions
on the future of the Commons last month.
Excitement among some residents had erupted days earlier
when Michael Braden and William Cooper, Westport residents, revealed
to Oldham County Fiscal Court a plan for expanding the park. Braden
called the forum to quell rumors and misconceptions and to take community
This is not final by any means. Were here to see what you
want if anything, Braden said, asserting his
neutrality. All weve done is roll up the ideas and put
together a pretty picture.
Braden and Cooper began working on the concept in 1999, and have since
worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection
Agency, and the University of Louisville, which already owns a small
research station on the site. University of Kentucky architecture students
also contributed to the study.
According to Braden, state and federal grants would be available for
the project, and developers, individuals and organizations have pledged
services or funding. Several audience members expressed skepticism,
demanding a list of names, but Braden explained that the majority of
donors wished to remain anonymous at this stage.
Currently, the two-acre park consists of a shelter, parking area, non-functioning
restrooms, picnic tables and a two-lane boat ramp Oldham
Countys only public access to the Ohio River. The plan calls for
improving or rebuilding the restrooms, expanding the ramp and parking
lot, installing docks and lighting, and building a stage, shelter, community
center, information center, basketball courts and walkways.
If this is for Westport, why all the extra parking? We can walk
there, you know, shouted a woman in the rear.
Many residents felt that the park should be improved, but some were
concerned that the plan could bring unwanted traffic to Westport. Highway
524, the curvy thoroughfare into Westport, is dangerous enough with
the current speeders and out of town boaters, residents said.
Im against it, said Bush Straughn, a longtime resident.
Its big enough right now. Three-quarters of the vehicles
you see there are from Jefferson County anyway.
Following the plan would mean tripling the size of the park, and Braden
said that 90 percent of the necessary properties are available for purchase.
The properties are zoned commercial, leading to worries that opportunistic
businesses could snatch them. My biggest concern is if we dont
build a park there, what will go there? said Kathy Hockersmith
of Friends of Westport. Is that going to be an apartment building?
A sports bar? Mini storage?
Still others worried that expanding the park could lead to mini
malls sprouting up in the quiet community. Shane Best, a 16-year
resident of Westport, dismissed this notion. A little bit of business
is a good thing, he said. Were not talking about building
a Clarksville here. Were talking about improving what we already
have, which sucks.
Nearly everyone agreed on the lack of county services in Westport. You
can set your watch by the law enforcements one drive through each
day, Braden said. And then theyre gone for the day.
Others complained that the county, charged with maintaining the park,
is unreliable at emptying trash receptacles there. The Friends of Westport
get up every Saturday morning and collect trash along Hwy. 524
because the county cant and wont pick it up, Hockersmith
She wrote down issues raised and pledged to deliver the list to Fiscal
Court, since most residents cant appear in person. Braden and
Cooper will ask court officials to explore the parks options.
Glenn Watson, who has lived on a ridge above Westport for 22 years,
cautioned residents and planners against making an important decision
If we do one thing, I hope we save a piece of history the
barn dance, Watson said, nodding in the direction of Westports
historic dance hall. Westport is at a crossroads. We have to decide
what kind of community we want to be. Somebody outside has already decided
what they want for us.
by Darrel Taylor
Westport Park Concept.
For more information on the park proposal,
For more information on the Friends of Westport, call Hockersmith at
Back to November 2005