Success StoryHuntertown Community Interpretive Park Planning and Design

Huntertown Community Interpretive Park Planning and Design

Author: Jayoung Koo

Planning Unit: Landscape Architecture

Major Program: Community Design/Creative Placemaking

Outcome: Initial Outcome

Woodford County was established in 1788 from part of Fayette County, Virginia, before the state of Kentucky was established in 1792. The county is located in the Bluegrass Area Development District (BGADD) and the Bluegrass Tourism Region. Woodford County’s population was 24,939 people and that of Versailles (county seat) was 8,568 people as of the 2010 Census (US Census Bureau, QuickFacts, n.d.). The region is known for its rolling hills, fertile soil, and breeding quality livestock such as horses due to its geographical and geological characteristics. The Kentucky River flows on the western edge of the county boundary. Versailles is less than a 15-mile drive from Lexington-Fayette County and has been steadily experiencing growth. Midway is the second-largest city in the county, and there are a number of other populated places.  

Huntertown was once a thriving, close-knit African-American community where descendants of freed African-Americans lived in Woodford County, Kentucky. While many residents left the area for various reasons over the years, more than a century after its establishment, in 2001 the county received federal funding to purchase the 38-acre site to mitigate environmental issues and relocate the remaining residents. Now, the Huntertown Community Interpretive Park (HCIP) Committee and the local government envision the preservation of Huntertown’s history and story by establishing an interpretive passive green space on the site as Huntertown Community Interpretive Park (HCIP). Woodford County is represented by strong local leaders, volunteers, and residents who live and/or work in the county. Members of the HCIP committee represent various stakeholder groups, including the Versailles-Woodford Parks and Recreation Department. They envision preserving the history and story of Huntertown through the park landscape. No original buildings remain on the site, but two streets of the hamlet still exist along with diverse habitats. Since 2010, the community/county has worked on a number of heritage research projects. The HCIP has much potential to be recreated to provide a unique glimpse into the socio-cultural heritage of Woodford County as well as to engage a new generation of citizens in learning about the shared history of the landscape.

In Fall 2020, the University of Kentucky, Department of Landscape Architecture (UKLA) students enrolled in LA 324 Landscape Architecture Design Studio IV: Community Engagement and Design partnered with the HCIP Committee and further complemented their cultural heritage and environmental restoration/conservation visions. With much research already accomplished, UKLA collaboratively developed plans and detailed designs that further supported the vision for the HCIP. UKLA supported the HCIP Committee’s effort to vision a passive green space that enhances the site’s environmental quality while creatively layering the site’s important historical narrative through physical expressions. Ultimately, the designs aimed to effectively connect the park site with surrounding streetscapes, public spaces, and recreation assets, among other shared spaces, as a strong network of corridors in and around Versailles and Woodford County while also considering future development plans surrounding the site. UKLA partnered with the committee and interested community members for further community engagement to decipher what voices to reflect in the interpretive educational landscape that will enhance the community’s environment and its quality of life. 

During a 14-week period, UKLA students researched, analyzed, planned, designed, and presented interpretive public open space design proposals focused on the interpretation of Huntertown. Due to limitations during the COVID-19 pandemic, UKLA students facilitated a virtual design workshop with community stakeholders during the information gathering process and later also conducted an online survey. Based on research and community voices, UKLA supported and complemented the community’s vision for interpreting and reflecting Huntertown’s narrative in the public landscape. Four student teams developed and presented their proposals to community members and professionals. The ideas seeded through this service-learning opportunity received positive feedback. There was a sense of excitement from the HCIP Committee, city and county leaders, volunteers, and residents longing to see the Huntertown Community Interpretive Park become a part of their culture, heritage, and future. 

Soon after UKLA’s partnership with the community, the HCIP Committee requested a consolidated master plan based on the creative ideas that were presented in the four team design proposals. The HCIP Committee funded three undergraduate landscape architecture students to continue assisting with the project and consolidate the ideas into one master plan. The revised master plan was finalized in summer 2021, bringing together more than twelve detailed ideas and new suggestions. The consolidated vision will help support the HCIP Committee’s fundraising efforts toward implementing the pubic space design project while also preparing for Huntertown’s 150th reunion in the Fall of 2021. For the short and intermediate terms, the UKLA design proposals are providing a foundation to support the placemaking efforts not only for Versailles-Woodford County residents but also for the broader central KY region.