Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Moving Quickly To Launch Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area

Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Moving Quickly To Launch Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area

Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Moving Quickly To Launch Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area
Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Moving Quickly To Launch Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area
Kentucky Department Fish Wildlife

Kentucky –-( Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jon Gassett and his executive staff have been busy assessing options and building a plan since Governor Steven Beshear’s June 16 announcement that Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife would re-open Meade County’s Otter Creek Park next spring.

Their mission: Create the Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area with more than 2,000 acres of new public hunting and fishing opportunity within 30 miles of Louisville, and simultaneously maintain the area for hikers, runners, horseback riders, mountain bikers, campers, rock climbers, kayakers, canoeists, and more. The Department also plans to establish a Fish and Wildlife law enforcement training facility on the area.

“We’re off to a great start,” said Gassett. “Executive staff spent an entire day on site and department personnel have been there many days since then. We are excited about the area’s many possibilities and what they will mean to all those who pursue recreation outdoors.” The effort is not without its challenges. “We intend to succeed,” said Gassett.

“It’s important to remember that the park was forced to close in 2008 due to its high operating costs. Fish and Wildlife has been successfully supported solely by its users for nearly 70 years and we’re now exploring ways to include the area’s users in that model.”

Some of the area’s structures are sound and can be utilized immediately. But others have fallen into serious disrepair and likely will need to be removed. Hundreds of trees still block hiking and riding trails where winter ice storms dropped them two years ago.

“The public and volunteers have long played integral roles in our department’s management of Kentucky’s fish and wildlife resources and our public areas,” said Gassett. “We’ll be counting heavily on them to make the Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area a success as well.” Gov. Steve Beshear called the Department’s new acquisition “a great opportunity to expand our adventure tourism efforts in an area so close to the Commonwealth’s largest city.”

He said the area can be used for many types of recreation and will help tourism and economic development in the region. Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson called it “the best possible scenario for Otter Creek – and for the people who use and love the park.”

He said the city had urged state government to assume operations of the park for more than 20 years. Camp Piomingo, operated by the YMCA of Greater Louisville under a lease agreement, will continue to offer its youth programs. Legal arrangements to initiate a temporary lease of the area from Louisville Metro Government by the Department are continuing until the final land transfer can be completed. The U.S. Department of the Interior deeded the land to the City of Louisville decades ago with deed restrictions that it always remains an outdoor recreation area.

The City now is donating the land to the Department and the Department of Interior must approve the transfer. The Department plans to purchase 200 adjacent acres from the City.

“We’re working diligently on a draft plan of operation that opens the area to hunters and anglers for the first time, but also allows for many other types of outdoor recreation as well,” said Gassett.

“The area has been closed to everyone for more than two years, but we plan to open it this coming spring.”

User fees will be necessary. When the area was Otter Creek Park, the City of Louisville shouldered its operational costs. But Fish and Wildlife receives no General Fund money. It is funded entirely by licenses, permits and fees paid by those who hunt, fish and boat.

Otter Creek users will now be Fish and Wildlife customers as well.