St. Matthews Parks Have Plenty to Offer All Ages
Writer / Fred White
The City of Louisville has had a long tradition of parks and so does St. Matthews. Residents for many years have been proud of how city planners have made room, even in prime real estate areas, for public green spaces like Seneca and Cherokee parks. As St. Matthews has grown, it has fostered that love of parks and has developed its own park system, consisting of four distinctive parks that combine for more than 100 acres. While each has unique features, they all share paths for walking.
The most well-known park is Brown Park. Centrally located at the corner of Browns Lane, Hubbard Lane and Bowling Boulevard, residents from three large apartment complexes can access it easily, as well as employees and visitors from Baptist Health.
While 28 acres may seem small for a park in Jefferson County, Brown Park has multiple walking paths, ducks and geese in Beargrass Creek, a shelter that’s popular for birthday parties, as well as plenty of open space for privacy – and the park continues to grow. In May of 2019, park leaders finished renovations of an enhanced play area, along with permanent restrooms and water fountains.
“The newly renovated Brown Park has been such a treat for our family,” says St. Matthews-based mom Katty Middleton. “We have met new families to play with while there. It gives us a great, fun activity to do with the kids that is cost-free.”
The meandering walking paths make Brown Park unique. Within walking distance from hospitals, shopping centers, apartments and traffic from busy roads, one can walk through wooded areas with algae-covered stone figures and forget that they are in a city. The winding creek also has a thriving population of ducks, geese and even an occasional white crane.
History buffs can visit (but not enter) the Brown Cemetery located at the park. James Brown first owned the 500 acres that make up much of what people know as St. Matthews, and his son, Theodore Brown, built the historical house now known as the Inn at Woodhaven. Both James and Theodore, as well as other family members, are buried in the cemetery.
The park also serves as the venue for annual St. Matthews events. In the fall, parents and children come from all over to enjoy Halloween at Brown Park, sponsored by the Chamber. Chamber members will line the walking path, with goodies for the kids. About one month later, people come to Brown Park for Light Up St. Matthews. The park is filled with Christmas lights that are lit throughout the Christmas season.
Not far from Brown Park, on the other side of Cypress Pointe Apartments, is Arthur K. Draut Park, named for the former St. Matthews mayor and longtime principal of Waggener High School. Originally it was slated to be an area on Bowling Boulevard for water retention during heavy rains after Shelbyville Road became more developed. City leaders at the time decided that the 24-plus acres of land could be used as a park. The park harbors wildlife that favors wetland areas including cattails and other water grasses.
“I have seen many different birds that I don’t otherwise see in the area,” says Amber Nicole Keown, who currently lives within walking distance of the park. Keown even visited the park when she previously lived in Hikes Point.
Nature enthusiasts and joggers enjoy the park with its walking path that spans nearly three-fourths of a mile. It includes contemporary bridges that cross Beargrass Creek, and has benches for the visitor who might want quiet time. This is the main focus of the park, since it is the only St. Matthews park that does not have a play area for children.
“It’s small, but private, peaceful and beautiful,” Keown says. “I go there a lot to clear my mind.”
Like Brown Park, despite the nearby traffic, the paths offer a pleasant diversion for someone who just wants to watch the creek run. The park has plenty of parking off of Bowling Boulevard, and the lot is marked with a clock and a popular yellow Gallopalooza horse, which recently underwent repairs after being damaged by a tree.
While Brown and Draut parks are visible in high-traffic areas, the other two St. Matthews parks, Community and Warwick, might be considered hidden jewels.
For many years the space around St. Matthews Community Center was thought to be just an area with a shopping center, bowling alley, and baseball fields for the St. Matthews Little League. While all of that is still there, the city has managed to develop the park system’s largest park at 45.8 acres.
The city designed Community Park with the athlete in mind. It has a basketball court and tennis courts, but it is mostly known for being the home of the St. Matthews Little League and the Trinity High School baseball team, with six baseball fields that serve hundreds of kids aged 4 to 18.
Laura Snyder Hagedorn, one of the donors for the Trinity field, has two boys and has spent a lot of time at the park.
“On the playground we always looked out for everyone’s kids,” she says. “The park always gave me such a joyful feeling. Dogs, toddlers, skateboards and parents everywhere – it was pretty cool.”
Hagedorn also points out that baseball isn’t the only type of game you will see.
“It’s always fun to see deer peek out,” she says. “The new paths are so peaceful in the woods as they wind around old trees and streams.”
While Community Park is the largest park, Warwick Park spans 8.4 acres. Many St. Matthews residents have a hard time thinking that anything outside the Watterson Expressway can be within the city limits, and incorrectly think that Warwick Park – if they know that it’s even there – is in Lyndon.
Nestled well short of the Herr Lane border of the city, Warwick is the only St. Matthews park completely surrounded by homes. Hundreds of neighbors can walk to the park in a matter of minutes like it’s an extension of their backyard.
“My daughter and I like to walk the walking track,” says Shannon Langley, who lives nearby. “My son plays basketball there and my granddaughter loves the playground.”
The playground, with a pavilion and porch-swing seating to make supervising adults comfortable, has more for kids than even Seneca Park, and it seems to have another advantage that Langley points out.
“It’s usually not crowded, which is a plus,” Langley says.
In addition, the park has a large space that, when not used for baseball or soccer practice, is ideal for picnicking, throwing a Frisbee or flying a kite.
Even for its size, Warwick allows residents of St. Matthews to get away for a few minutes or more, to give people an option besides staying home.
All of the parks, though limited on space, manage to offer much to the people of the area, and a few surprises. When it comes to parks, as Frederick Law Olmsted once said, “Gradually and silently the charm comes over us; we know not exactly where or how.”