City breaks ground with a Splash!

Mayor Linda Gorton, several sponsors, and councilmembers broke ground this morning on Splash!, a water play project that will soon make quite a splash in the East End Neighborhood’s Charles Young Park.

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

Town Branch Commons Trail, which is 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. 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.

Splash! will be a large, interactive water feature telling the story of Brigadier General Young, who was born in Mays Lick, Kentucky. 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. Using recirculating water, the water play area will include water bubbling up from stones, crossing water arches, and a constant shallow stream surrounded by steppingstones 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. And the project includes the renovation of the existing restroom building.

Charles Young Park playground and the Splash! project are rooted in community engagement, analysis and feedback.

“With plenty of input from neighbors, including neighborhood children, Splash! has been designed to appeal to children of different ages and abilities,” Gorton said.

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.

Lisa Adkins, president/CEO of Blue Grass Community Foundation, said, “Breaking ground for Splash! at Charles Young Park is a dream more than a decade in the making. 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.

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.”

Thoughtful design for the park, signage, public art and other features will incorporate the legacy of the park’s history and its namesake. The Charles Young Center and the adjacent park are now 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. 

Construction is expected to continue through 2022, with completion in spring 2023.

This project is made possible by the leadership of Blue Grass Community Foundation, with support from the following charitable donors and BGCF fund holders: Blue Grass Community Foundation, Community Ventures, Elhapa Foundation, J.M. Smucker Co., James Monroe Homes, James and Martha Monroe Charitable Fund at BGCF, and Knight Foundation Donor Advised Charitable Fund at BGCF. Splash! also received a grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation’s Building Better Communities Grant, administered by the National Recreation and Park Association.

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 About Blue Grass Community Foundation

Blue Grass Community Foundation creates more generous, vibrant, engaged and equitable communities by growing strategic charitable giving throughout the Bluegrass and Appalachia Kentucky. To learn more about the Community Foundation, visit or contact President/CEO Lisa Adkins at (859) 225-3343.

About the American Water Charitable Foundation was established in 2010 with a founding contribution from American Water, the American Water Charitable Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides a formal way to demonstrate the company’s ongoing commitment to being a good neighbor, citizen and contributor to the communities where American Water and its employees live, work and operate. The Foundation helps support American Water employee-identified nonprofit endeavors. For more information, visit and follow American Water on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

About the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. With more than 60,000 members, NRPA advances this mission by investing in and championing the work of park and recreation professionals and advocates – the catalysts for positive change in service of equity, climate readiness, and overall health and well-being. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit


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