The West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative

*Finalists Feature Series: The Great Outdoors with accompanying audio, Episode 12: West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative with Bennett Knox, Parks Administrator at Louisville Parks & Recreation.  

Boy biking outdoors, Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge Runner Up logo

NEWS UPDATE: Louisville is a Tier 2 Runner-Up of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. 

Recognition: Louisville Parks and Recreation's West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative has brought nature-based education to disconnected urban neighborhoods, fostering a relationship to the outdoors that can build healthier lifestyles and social cohesion.   

“Working with the ECHO program has given me a new sense of awareness in how important the connections to nature are to the youth we serve. I have personally taken advantage of the public programming with my own family as well as with students from Nativity Academy; and it is absolutely amazing to see their faces light up and the smiles as they engage in activities they’ve never experienced.” - Lisa Brents, Community Outreach Coordinator and Participating Parent

Location: Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky, population 615,366

The Problem: Residents living in the 12 urban neighborhoods in the Louisville metropolitan area have statistically poor health outcomes resulting in premature death.

Kids play at a creek smiling kids under a tree

Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge Approach: The West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative  intends to build a culture in Louisville where low-income, urban residents connect to nature. Based upon research, we propose that connecting to nature improves physical and mental health by increasing physical activity and reducing toxic stress, and increases social cohesion which deters community crime. The Initiative has three phases. The Phase 1 objective is to plan for a nature-based educational and recreational environment that addresses the root causes of poor health outcomes and provides an environment that promotes health equity. Phase 2 leverages local, state and national partnerships building community relationships and the capacity of residents to engage in recreational activities in west Louisville, leading to a culture of embracing the outdoors. Phase 3 involves implementing environmental changes by creating outdoor infrastructure in west Louisville, leading to healthier residents. Having achieved phase 1, the multi-sector partners will implement phase 2 during the next two years. Midway through the Challenge, Louisville was awarded the Spotlight Award. Learn more about the interim award