SUNDAY EDITION | Longtime Louisville Parks Leader Takes Lead on Southern Indiana’s Origin Park Plan | In depth


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – When Susan Rademacher lived in Jeffersonville, Indiana, years ago, she sometimes walked down Riverside Drive to the Ohio Falls and wondered what was beyond.

“It was a real no man’s land. It was a place you didn’t want to go,” she recalled recently. “And now to open this up on such a grand scale is really exciting.”

Long home to a landfill, industrial sites and floodplain woodland, the area is now the heart of the Origin Park project, an expanse of green space, meadows, paths and water access planned along the Ohio River around Clarksville.

After a career in parks in Louisville and Pittsburgh, Rademacher returns to southern Indiana to become executive director of the River Heritage Conservancy, the nonprofit group developing the plan. From Monday, she will succeed Scott Martin, who was confirmed last week as the new administrator of Chattanooga Parks and Outdoors Department.

The change in leadership comes as the park project now controls more than 300 acres, roughly half of its master plan land. In December, he was awarded US Bailout Fund estimated $17.3 million from a state-run grant program that would help pay for the first phase of the 110-acre park and $42 million.

“Origin Park is at a really significant transition or inflection point from early land acquisition and master planning to project development,” Rademacher said. “And that was central to the latter part of my career.”

Susan Rademacher, new executive director of the River Heritage Conservancy (photo provided).

Rademacher was president of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy in Louisville from 1991 until 2007, when she left to become curator of parks at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. She retired there in 2020.

Last week, the Garden Club of America announced that Rademacher would receive his 2022 Medal of Historic Preservation, citing his work leading the development and fundraising for a master plan for Louisville’s Olmsted Parks in the early 1990s. He also noted his work overseeing the planning, design and fundraising funds for a restoration of Mellon Park in Pittsburgh.

In more than 30 years in parks, Rademacher has spearheaded 35 capital projects and developed 10 park master plans, according to the conservation.

Rademacher told WDRB News that in addition to knowing the proposed areas for Origin Park, she will focus on several initiatives. They include establishing the office of conservation in the park, continuing to acquire land for the project, and working with the Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to combat worsening erosion on the Indiana coastline.

One solution to this problem, Rademacher said, is to install a series of dam-like weirs to stabilize the bank.

“We have to protect what we have,” she said. “And then we have to move forward with things that really add value to the community.”

Corps officials said in emails to the WDRB that they were aware of erosion issues, but the exact method of shoreline stabilization was not selected. Once a project is funded, “we will determine the exact nature of the solution”.

Reserve board chairman Kent Lanum said Rademacher’s experience dealing with the Corps on similar issues in Pittsburgh was an added advantage, as was his work with architects, engineers and contractors. designers on previous projects.

Rademacher had also advised River Heritage Conservancy when it selected Philadelphia-based OLIN to design the park and when planners chose the name Origin Park. OLIN’s master plan was released in 2020.

“We could have been stuck for 12 months or more,” Lanum said. “In this case, we’ll just slow down for a month during the transition and perform a data dump.”

Martin joined the reservation in 2017 after serving as Parks Manager for Floyds Fork Parks and holding former positions at Idaho and Virginia Parks. He is the North American Co-Chair and Board Member of the World Urban Parks organization.

“Parks are always bigger than people,” he said. “If you do a park well, it goes through generations of people. And so the big goal for our big parks is for the park to be the boss. The plan is the boss.

Origin Park’s plan calls for 600 acres of sprawling fields, walking and biking trails, an events center, and an “outdoor adventure center” with whitewater paddling, among other features. The first phase would include the event center, six miles of trails, three miles of roads, trailheads, parking areas and washrooms.

The full scope of the park is unlikely to be developed, as it includes land that New Albany has set aside for the expansion of its own parks.

Scott Martin, Executive Director of the River Heritage Conservancy

Scott Martin, executive director of the River Heritage Conservancy, talks about a park plan for the Ohio River in Clarksville in August 2019. (WDRB Photo)

Origin Park officials are also planning a “blue lane” on the lower stretch of Silver Creek for paddlers. It was supposed to have opened last year, but New Albany has challenged the removal of a low-rise dam near East Spring Street on the Clark-Floyd County line.

While conservation maintains the dam is a safety hazard, New Albany has raised concerns about the possible impacts of its removal. Martin said the issue was going through an administrative hearing process.

But he believes that with the recent award of the grant, “I can see a way forward with permits, construction and financing, opening this first phase in late 2024 or around 2025.”

Documents included in the grant application indicate that the total cost of the project is now $200 million, up from previous estimates of around $155 million.

The reserve will also announce on Monday that it is hiring a full-time employee to oversee fundraising, a move Lanum says will allow it to “get started” once the grant is approved.

“My goal is to build this thing as soon as possible,” he said. “I don’t want to wait 20 years. I would love to do it in 10 or less.

Contact reporter Marcus Green at [email protected]

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