• John McGary, Woodford Sun News Editor

A day at the (Big Spring) park

CHLOE MCELWAIN, left, and Evie Hall walked carefully on a log spanning the creek at Big Spring Park on “Earth Day at Big Spring Park” Saturday. Chloe’s mother, Erin, said she and her family have been coming to the park behind the county courthouse since they moved to Versailles three years ago. “It looks a lot more clean,” she said. (Photo by John McGary)

“Earth Day at Big Spring Park” was the day before Earth Day, but for many of the hundreds of people who spent part of their Saturday there, it was just another day at the park.

Erin McElwain brought her two children there to enjoy the long-overdue warm spring day and see some friends.

“They’re off exploring all the nature aspects that the park gives us here,” McElwain said.

Around her were food trucks and informational booths, incumbent and aspiring politicians and a bouncy house. A few yards away, her eldest, Chloe, came back into view with her friend, fellow nine-year-old Evie Hall. (Evie later pointed out that she was actually nine-and-a-half.)

As she watched the girls walk across a log spanning the creek, McElwain said her family’s been coming to the park since they moved to Versailles three years ago, and that she’d noticed the improvements made by volunteers and city workers.

“It looks a lot more clean,” McElwain said.

Near one of the four entrances to the 78-year-old park, Woodford County High School seniors Noah Chapman and Justin Geilear stood next to a table with a large chart and two computers. The computers were used to conduct a survey about what park-goers would like to see there, with the results headed to the “Friends of Big Spring Park” group, a subcommittee of the Downtown Planning Advisory Committee (DPAC).

“ … Just so we can get a good representation of what people want and so we can compile that and give it to the architecture firm … so that they can use that information to really just renovate the park the way the community sees fit,” Chapman said.

Chapman said he favored a “hammocking” area, and that several of his friends agree.

“I come down here quite often, just to hammock in the back, really. It’s really nice. It’s chill,” Chapman said.

For the two WCHS seniors, the day’s work was school away from school; a part of their senior capstone engineering track.

The chart showed various proposals for the park, like a tree house, outdoor Wifi lounge, basketball court – and a “hammocking” area.

“(We were told) teenagers used to come here all the time, and now they aren’t, so what we’re trying to do is bring teenagers back,” Geilear said.

Versailles City Council Member Laura Dake, who chairs DPAC and co-chairs the Friends of Big Spring Park subcommittee, handed out fact sheets about the park – and said she was pleased with the turnout.

“We’ve had a really good day so far. The weather is absolutely perfect, and … it’s really wonderful to see the community come out and support this event,” Dake said.

DPAC has given a conditional go-ahead to a $14,000 design bid by the Lexington architecture firm Element Design, but any contract must be approved by the Versailles City Council. Dake said four members of Woodford Fiscal Court attended the meeting at which the Element

Design architect spoke about their bid.

The park itself was deeded to the Versailles-Woodford County Parks and Recreation Department, which is funded by a 55-45 county-city split. Dake said her next step is to present the plan to the Parks Board of Directors.

Down by the creek, McElwain watched as Chloe and Evie stepped off the log, and said she believed the community will support spending money to improve the park. “I think parks are really great, because they attract families and different activities that are here, and when something is well taken care of, I think the community appreciates it. It’s a good use of tax dollars, I think, to make sure we have good parks and outdoor spaces for kids to play and people to gather,” McElwain said.

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