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  • Chad Hobbs

A look back on Otter Creek Park's formation and glory days

The Otter Creek Park area has had a precarious past when it comes to ownership. It was once part of Hardin County. Then when Meade County was formed in 1823, it became part of our county. It witnessed extinct towns such as Plain Dealing, Garnettsville and Lick Skillet spring up around it, only to disappear when Camp Knox became Fort Knox and expanded around Muldraugh west across Otter Creek in the 1941-42 land acquisition for the base. Then, after World War II in 1947, the National Park Services and the federal government deeded 2,155 acres around Otter Creek to the City of Louisville to form Otter Creek Park. As part of the stipulations, the city agreed that the land would forever be used for public purpose and that any transfer otherwise would have to be signed off on by the Interior Department of the federal government.

In 2009, the City of Louisville officially closed the park, as they were unable to continue to lose $500,000 a year in upkeeping a park 30 miles downriver from the city. The city was eventually able to work out a deal with the federal government to transfer the land into the care of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife (KFW) department, which has overseen the park ever since. The exception to this was the 150 acres within the park that was leased by the YMCA of Greater Louisville. The YMCA had leased this land almost since the beginning of the park which is known as Camp Piomingo. KFW agreed to honor the YMCA lease that runs through 2037 with a 25-year lease option. The state paid the city $65,000 to transfer ownership to KFW.

The park offers hunting and fishing, disc golf, hiking and horseback trails, camping, rock climbing and picnicking opportunities. KFW also added archery and firearm ranges. But there are several things no longer available at the park that many Meade Countians fondly remember.

The boat ramp to the Ohio River and pool have been closed for quite some time. Up through the 1990s, the swimming pool was a regular summertime hangout for countless kids across the area to beat the heat and enjoy their break from school. Hardly a day would pass that pool wasn't packed.

The park also was home to one of the most unique dining experiences and spectacular views in central Kentucky. The Otter Creek Park Restaurant set high on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River. The completely stone building was opened in the early 1980s with its two-story back half completely inclosed in glass where diners could look over the Ohio River and into Indiana while they dined or set outside on the wrap-around balcony or patio below. Countless wedding receptions were held there as the view offered up an unsurpassed backdrop for such special events when it came to beauty. The restaurant would eventually close in the late 1990s, but the facility would continue to be available for rent for weddings, family reunions and conferences into the early 2000s. Sadly, the once grand building has deteriorated into a pathetic shell of its former glory as vandals have broken out the windows, tagged the walls with spray paint, knocked holes through the drywall and allowed Mother Nature to devastate what's left as the ceiling and insulation crumble down to the floor.

A buzzard sets atop the former Otter Creek Park Restaraunt looking out over the Ohio River and the destruction below.

Tomorrow we will take a look at some changes that are taking place at Otter Creek Park on March 1 and take a look at what that means for Meade County.

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