Ensuring Healthy Safe Parks

City: Louisville, Kentucky

Reporting to: Deputy Mayor

The Challenge

The Louisville Metro has 120 premier parks with varying levels of investment, activation, and safety challenges.  The parks with the most challenges are often in qualified census tracks (with low incomes and high rates of poverty) in communities of color1 and are often concentrated in neighborhoods where fewer opportunities exist for access to safe green space, physical activity, and sanctioned places for gathering. The people most negatively impacted by illicit activities and restricted accessibility to these parks are also those most likely to experience poverty, negative health outcomes, and fewer opportunities to safely access park spaces. Improving the health and safety of parks is a public health challenge and a key priority for Mayor Greenberg.2

Louisville Metro Parks has allocated resources and applied targeted solutions, like hiring a social worker to provide services to park goers in crisis, communicating park boundaries, investments in lighting and cameras, and operational changes in maintenance of restrooms, etc., that have mitigated but not addressed the challenges. In December 2022, city officials passed an ordinance that clarifies allowable uses of parks. In addition, the city has made investments in capital improvements and partnered with the Parks Alliance, a nonprofit partner devoted to equitable investment in parks. The city leadership has also prioritized this issue for the work of a cross-sector team (from within and outside city government) in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative’s Collaboration Track. The fellowship project would help support the work of the collaboration track team and bring focused attention to researching existing models for park improvements, mechanisms for funding, and evaluation criteria for assessing program effectiveness. Working together with the key internal and external stakeholders including Metro Parks, Resiliency Community Services, Louisville Metro Police Department as well as nonprofit partners such as Parks Alliance Louisville and Olmsted Conservancy, the fellow will seek to address the following key questions:

  • What are the best national models for park improvements, sustainable mechanisms for funding, and evaluation demonstrating return on investment and public value? Are there any effective models for collaboration across various government and community actors?

  • What uses of technology and innovations exist for advancing park accessibility, including the reduction of biohazards? What permitting mechanisms are being effectively deployed for motor vehicle use in parks?

  • What effective practices are other cities deploying to make their parks safer, and how are they measuring progress?

The fellow will also stay connected to and contribute to executing key initiative strategies that emerge from the work that the city is doing as part of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative’s Collaboration Track.

What You’ll Do

To address these questions, the fellow will engage with key stakeholders identified above. They will also review the Parks for All study to assess any gaps in stakeholder analysis.

Key Deliverables Include:

  1. Identify points of intervention through use of data and interviews.
  2. Research best practice models.
  3. Plan development for advancing park safety including the possibility of strategies such as park rangers, innovative technologies, and a framework for continued collaboration.
  4. A presentation to key stakeholders including the Mayor of the fellow’s findings and recommendations.

What You’ll Bring

The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills:

  • Data Analysis
  • Qualitative Interviewing and Analysis
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Research
  • Financial Modeling
  • Design Thinking




1 As validated by 311 and 911 data indicating repair requests and calls for service, park data focused on inaccessible amenities due to vandalism and illicit activities, law enforcement crime data, public health overdose rates, and a Parks for All Report including park ratings based on access, investment, maintenance, and amenities.

2 Metro Council passed a resolution in 2022 affirming the Parks for All plan. Mayor Greenberg has prioritized public safety and health in parks and has also made an unprecedented investment in parks.


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