OLIN designing a 400-acre waterfront park for Southern Indiana

Linking Linear Landscapes

OLIN designing a 400-acre waterfront park for Southern Indiana

The park will connect the Falls of the Ohio State Park, the Ohio River Greenway, and the Olmsted-designed park system in Louisville, Kentucky. (Troy McCormick, Courtesy River Heritage Conservancy)

OLIN has been tapped to design a 400-acre park along the northern shore of the Ohio River in southern Indiana. Set within a swath of waterfront long-occupied by landfill and industrial facilities, the future park will give local residents a much-needed connection with the river and its history, while boosting the area’s link to Louisville, Kentucky.

Though no design details have been released yet, OLIN partner Lucinda Sanders said the plan, spearheaded by the River Heritage Conservancy, will tie into both sides of the Ohio River. In doing this, the park will serve 1.2 million residents within a 30-mile radius, including those living in the adjacent Indiana towns of Jeffersonville, Clarksville, and New Albany.

Photo of landfill in Ohio River by Troy McCormick, Courtesy River Heritage Conservancy
The linear site includes a large amount of landfill that’s separated by a levee in the Ohio River. (Troy McCormick, Courtesy River Heritage Conservancy)

A slew of brownfield sites, landfills, wetlands, and river camps currently encompass the massive parcel of land, which also sits within a FEMA 100-year floodplain and is bounded by a large levee that was built after a devastating flood in 1937. Sanders said OLIN will pay homage to the river and the site’s complex past. “We have a lot to work with here,” she said. “This park is already a 21st-century park in every way, shape, and form due to the conditions that are presently there.”

After investigating the entirety of the site, the design team will intervene with a major remediation effort and then integrate a landscape design that will call attention to its unique context, while also acting as a buffer against future flooding. In a statement, Sanders said the park won’t be “just a public amenity, but…a purveyor of resilience. The mighty Ohio River creates the awe of this site. But it also has to be given the respect it deserves.”

“You’ve got this amazing quantity of land situated within an urban environment that’s also lying in a severe flood zone,” Sanders told AN. “The fact that it’s also been so highly manipulated through the abuses of human activity, and that it contains a rich history for the region make it incredibly compelling.”

Photo of wetlands in Southern Indiana by Trevor Lee, OLIN Studio
Lucinda Sanders of OLIN says her design team will consider the site’s vast ecologies and integrate nods to its complex history within the future landscape. (Trevor Lee, Courtesy OLIN)

When complete, the parkland will tie residents to one another and to the abundant natural and historical resources that populate the region. It will sit downstream from the Falls of the Ohio State Park and the original home of George Rogers Clark, a Revolutionary War hero. It will also be a key element of the new Ohio River Greenway, a seven-mile linear park that’s currently under construction.

On a larger scale, the parkland will connect southern Indiana with the Louisville region’s vast park system, much of which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. OLIN’s design will link people to the Big Four Bridge, an old railroad truss bridge that reopened to the public as a pedestrian and bicycle throughway in 2013, and allow them to cross over into the River City. According to Sanders, OLIN is eager to dive head-on into the challenging project thanks to such widespread local support.

Southern Indiana Aerial Photo by Troy McCormick, Courtesy River Heritage Conservancy
OLIN will work with the River Heritage Conservancy in southern Indiana to design a new megapark that spans four towns along the Ohio River. (Troy McCormick, Courtesy River Heritage Conservancy)

“This community knows great parks, and they know great design,” she said. “We see a tremendous ambition in the expansion of this regional park network and are excited by the possibilities.”

OLIN hopes to unveil ideas for the site after conducting a thorough analysis with local collaborators over the next nine months.