Waterfront Park: Solving a massive perception challenge
In urban areas, we need green space. We need open places to seek solitude or mix with our neighbors: a place to play as we are kids and enjoy as we age. Waterfront Park is that place. It is Louisville’s front yard. Or backyard depending on which direction you are traveling. It is also one of the most diverse places in the city, with close to 40% of its 2.2 million annual visitors being people of color.
But, Waterfront Park is not a city park. Once a bleak, environmentally compromised area, it is now an independent, nonprofit park that sprawls across 85 acres of urban space by the Ohio River. More than a park, it’s a place where you are likely to catch a free concert, attend a march, take part in an art class or camp, view a sunset from the iconic Big Four Bridge, and more. Waterfront is not a single entity sort of place. It’s a place of common ground, which is more important than ever right now.
Most people take their parks for granted because they are owned by the city. They are entirely funded by our taxes. Waterfront Park is different. Part of the operating budget is covered by the city, but Waterfront needs its patrons’ too, to keep the park funded and alive. Also, Waterfront’s vision isn’t limited to maintaining what they have. They are expanding west along the river into the Portland neighborhood. This expansion is important. It will reclaim a currently inaccessible plot on the waterfront and provide an access point to the Park in West Louisville.
Our work primarily addresses their perception problem. They are not a city park, so we created an identity that clearly differentiates them. And, secondarily, because they aren’t part of Louisville’s Metro Park system, they need support. We saw how intensely people love Waterfront Park. Asking people for money is never easy. So we made sure they were equipped with the necessary tools to clearly communicate who they are and why they need to stick around.