Tuesday, September 10, 2024
4:15 PM - 4:45 PM
Location Name
Turning a Combined Sewage Flood Area into Louisville's Newest Park - The Alberta O. Jones Park Story
Engineering & Construction

On August 4, 2009 , Louisville, KY experienced a historic rainfall event totaling 7.6 inches of precipitation in just over 75 minutes, resulting in flash flooding throughout much of the City. One severely impacted area was in the west end of Louisville in the California neighborhood, where extensive flooding of homes and businesses occurred. This was not the first time these areas flooded, but it was the most severe in terms of impacts and magnitude of property damage. The result was a Presidential Disaster Declaration that allowed for flood relief funding to assist impacted residents and property owners. The California neighborhood overlays an unnamed tributary to the Ohio River that has long since been encapsulated by a large-diameter combined sewer that is owned and maintained by the Louisville-Jefferson County MSD. The most vulnerable section of this watershed is centered around Maple Street, which is the lowest spot in a naturally occurring bowl that encompasses about 16 square blocks of mostly single-family, densely populated housing. Beneath Maple Street lies a 9-foot diameter combined sewer pipe that is only 3 feet below the street in some places. Due to the narrowing of this pipe immediately downstream, the Maple Street storm inlets are prone to surcharging during significant rain events. These areas are defined by MSD as Combined Sewer Flood Prone areas and are subject to locally enforced floodplain management policies and regulations. Because of the disaster declaration, MSD secured $9.75 million in matching grant funding through FEMA and the Commonwealth of Kentucky to fund voluntary homeowner buyouts. 97% of the homeowners chose the buyout and those flood damaged structures were demolished to reduce future impacts. MSD realized the result would be an open green space that would require mowing and maintenance in perpetuity but wouldn’t necessarily be a significant asset to the community. MSD hired Strand Associates to help assemble and facilitate a stakeholder group to envision what these 18 acres of vacant land could become. The result of this community-led effort is the creation of a new park located in a part of the City where open space and park facilities are severely limited for the local population. The resulting Alberta O. Jones Park transformed a community liability into a community asset. Creating a park in an area that is prone to flooding from combined sewage was no easy task. The planning and design team of MSD, Strand, landscape architects Human Nature, and ultimately the Parks Alliance of Louisville, balanced the needs and desires of the community with the strict regulations set out by FEMA and MSD for developing in a flood prone area. The result was a park that is functionally 100% impervious, features two rain gardens, a natural play area, and a large pollinator garden. This presentation will cover the history of the project from the 2009 flooding event through the FEMA buy-out process and community outreach to the planning, design, and construction of a unique park less than 15 minutes from the Water Professionals Conference site.