My home town of Owensboro has gotten the personal attention that I once figured was never going to take place. Before my move back to Kentucky 3 years ago, I was fairly permanently ensconced at the far end of 40 years Out West. Owensboro functioned as a sort of spiritual geography, studded by my old friends and classmates who all occupy various rooms in my Soul’s city of light.
Alas, much has changed. My home town is reinventing itself marvelously. I so approve!
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I now travel back and forth often, between Louisville and Owensboro. It is a gorgeous 115 mile trip across Southern Indiana, reminding me of how utterly mobile we were “back in the day” where a trip to Louisville or to see those partying friends in Bowling Green was an after thought. Owensboro in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s was a car culture. The proliferation of highly successful NASCAR drivers, from my old buddy and fellow sinning teen, Darryl Waltrip, to his younger brother to the Green Family and Jeremy Mayfield completely exposed how naturally an Owensboro kid was born with hands wedded to a steering wheel, a smile on his face, the window down and all that beauty passing by alongside at 85 MPH. (And sometimes a LOT more).
But dramatic events at the City Hall level of Planning have taken the small almost Midwestern city into a fascinating direction featuring a Tourism effort of interesting merit. Owensboro has constructed the Bluegrass Music Hall Of Fame – a gorgeous brick edifice honoring the music of the area and state made so famous by Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and the raft of newer musicians whose validation of this regional form of music has become so popular that Europe and Asia have gigantic followings and performers. There are a procession of year-’round events focused there to meet the other noteworthy classic events such as the Barbecue Cookoff’s which attract tens of thousands of folks.
But they have also constructed a centerpiece – a recreational small wonder which is most definitely right up my alley: Smothers Park. Bold and eye-catching, with abundant children features including the world’s creepiest trees and a playground to absolutely die for, Smothers Park receives my highest personal award for landscape design. Human, eye-catching, modern, this riverside park hits a home run for excellence in design and functionality. As a badge of pride – like all landscaping – it gives a face to a city. This one is beautiful:
The sound alone of the rushing water over these steps in the above picture isolate one enough to savor something personal. The fetching and evocative quality of waterfalls which so fascinate us are exemplified in this structure which takes place ironically below our feet.
But water is a theme in more than one spot. A trio of modernistic ponds, hardscaped into the landscape, made from cement and made remarkably easy on the eyes by its deep dark color and curving lines are punctuated by alternating fountain displays.
The Monster Trees are a trip:
Almost any perspective is a complete winner. Of particular moment to me are the walking and the driving surfaces, all constructed simply to please the eye from an abundance of available angles.
Here is an outstanding detail which would figure I would love. I am – if nothing else – predictable.
An even better perspective, at one of the park’s various entry points displays even more the goal of the designers to capture our imagination at shoe level, in order to surprise us at the higher range – or lower.
I absolutely adore this new park. 10-15 years from now – not necessarily Olmstead’s 40 year window which he so focused on – will be the Ultimate in this park’s fully- developed ability to please the eye. With larger trees, fully developed grasses softening the periphery so well, these lawns will merge into a soft background for the hard achievements of the water features, the playground and the walking surfaces. For the present, however, that future is most definitely Now. And I think it really works.
More stuff, neat stuff………..
Well done, Owensboro!!