New park coming as new plan for neighborhood comes together

 What used to be a place people tried to avoid will soon be a place people want to go. The nearly empty lots between Madison, Martin Luther King Jr. Dr, and 13th and 14th streets in Paducah are turning into a health park. 

William Conner has lived in the neighborhood for nearly a decade, He said he welcomes the change, especially for the kids in the area. 

“They won’t have to play out in the streets,” Conner said. “You know, children don’t have anywhere to go. There’s plenty of room, it’s an ideal place.”

Parks Services Director Mark Thompson said it’s a unique partnership, called the Purchase Area Connections for Health, that’s making it happen in the Fountain Avenue Neighborhood. 

The park is to be developed on the city-owned property. The partnership includes core agencies the city of Paducah, United Way of Paducah-McCracken County, Baptist Health Paducah, Lourdes Hospital, and the Purchase District Health Department.

At the meeting, the Paducah Board of Commissioners introduced an ordinance to accept an Investing in Kentucky’s Future grant for the park in the amount of $400,000 from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. The grant requires a cash match of $200,000, which will be satisfied through a 2014 Land and Water Conservation Fund grant in the amount of $75,000, its cash match in the amount of $75,000, and donations of $25,000 each from the two hospitals. 

A fundraising campaign for this park will be initiated by members of the partnership to fully fund the construction of the park. At this time, more than $600,000 is available to start the first phase of the park.

Currently, the area is a blank slate. The city’s community garden is there, and an updated version is included in the new plans. Thompson said the difference between the park and others is it’s purpose. The park is a health park. The theme is to provide a venue for local schools, the parks department, and other agencies to educate the public, especially young people, about proper diet and exercise. 

Plans include an open field, a third of a mile walking trail, an inclusive playground, a spray pad and outdoor performance area, outdoor fitness equipment, and picnic areas. 

In the future there would be public restrooms, and the end of the park facing MLK Drive would include retail and professional office space for medical clinics and related agencies with upper-story living.

The engineering design for the park should be complete next spring, with the first phase of construction expected to begin in the summer of 2016.

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