City receives $250,000 grant for Splash!

The City has received a grant to help build Splash!, a permanent water feature, at Charles Young Park.

A Building Better Communities grant for $250,000 has been awarded to Lexington by the American Water Charitable Foundation (AWCF). This is the eighth year of the grant program, which is funded by the AWCF and administered by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Lexington is one of two communities awarded this grant in 2021.

The $250,000 grant will be added to a $900,000 grant already awarded to the City for the project from Blue Grass Community Foundation. The two grants cover the cost for design and construction of the overall project.

“Historic East End Neighborhood families will soon be able to walk to this area and cool off or enjoy a playground designed for children of all abilities. What a great way to make a Splash!,” Mayor Linda Gorton said. “Thank you to the American Water Charitable Foundation, NRPA and Kentucky American Water for their generous investments in our city.”

Splash! and a new playground at Charles Young Park will connect to Town Branch Commons Trail, allowing for equitable access to the new community focused, water-inspired play area. The playground officially opened last month and Splash! is slated to open in the Fall of 2022.

 “Charles Young Park and Community Center have long been a staple of the historic East End Neighborhood, and a well-known local destination for Lexington’s African-American community,” said 1st District Councilmember James Brown. “With continued neighborhood engagement and community input, the recent investments in this park will not only benefit the families in this neighborhood, but also bring others across our city to share in the rich culture and history of Charles Young Park.”

“Through our work, we have found splash pads are a wonderful way to ensure water access for all, while supporting our focus on conservation , and engaging community members in environmental education,” said Carrie Williams, president, American Water Charitable Foundation. “Giving back to communities we serve is part of the culture at American Water. We are pleased to partner with the City of Lexington to provide this outdoor play space so families can enjoy the wonders of water, while also learning the valuable role we all play in protecting our environment.”

“We are proud to support the essential work of Parks and Recreation professionals in the City of Lexington to ensure children and families can experience water and have access to water-based education and nature play spaces, which is key to building the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Kellie May, NRPA vice president, programs and partnerships. “NRPA is proud to support this important work through our partnership with the American Water Charitable Foundation.”

The Splash! project is rooted in community engagement, analysis and feedback. Over two summers (2016 and 2017), SplashJAM, a pop-up splash pad at nearby Northeastern Park, offered residents and visitors a place to relax, stay cool and play. SplashJAM’s success confirmed the need for a permanent water feature.

Gresham Smith consulting firm was recently selected as the design and consulting team for Splash!. The design phase is anticipated to begin in September, with several public engagement opportunities. A nature-inspired design is planned. The project will encourage water stewardship through educational signage and programming. Construction is set for 2022.

Design for the park, signage, public art and other features will incorporate the legacy of the park’s history, and of its namesake, Colonel Charles Young. Young, a native Kentuckian, was the first African-American to rise to the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Army. The Charles Young Center is 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 Fields, Charles Young Center Advisory Board chair. “The advisory board is excited to participate in the upcoming design process.”

The overall project at Charles Young Park is made possible by the American Water Charitable Foundation, National Recreation and Park Association, and the Blue Grass Community Foundation, with support from the following charitable donors and BGCF fundholders: Blue Grass Community Foundation, Community Ventures, J.M. Smucker Co., James Monroe Homes, James and Martha Monroe Charitable Fund at BGCF, and Knight Foundation Donor Advised Charitable Fund at BGCF.

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