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2013 Award of Merit - Smother’s Park
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Project Category: Open Space

Project Name: Smother’s Park

Project Location: Owensboro, Kentucky

Date of Completion: 2012

Landscape Architect:  Paul D. Kissinger, FASLA, PLA, EDSA, Inc.


Owner: City of Owensboro, KY

Landscape Contractor: Hall Contracting

The Owensboro Riverfront District spans approximately 1.4 miles along the southern edge of the Ohio River, including the downtown, residential neighborhoods and major civic open spaces. The planners and landscape architects defined, created and implemented the residents’ vision for an active riverfront, with nearly $70 million of improvements, including a federally financed river flood wall and City funded Smother’s Park. This pocket city, where 96,656 people live, has invested in an array of development initiatives in health care, transportation, education, tourism and travel that focused on making the city and county more competitive in attracting residents and businesses through master planning efforts in the downtown core. 

The Smother’s Park Improvements project was part of the Riverfront District Revitalization and encompasses five acres.  Divided into three distinct areas (1) the inlet water feature and signature fountain area (2) Lazy Dayz Outdoor Museum and Children’s Playground, and (3) the Shelton Memorial Park, the park has a host of street and sidewalk design features that provide for a variety of public gathering spaces and programmed activities that has invited more foot traffic to the cafes, bars, leisure venues and businesses that thrive in an active downtown. 

The signature fountain plaza creates a focal point that connects to the downtown and provides a public destination space. The rooster tail design pays homage to boat races of the past along the Ohio River and with nearly 100 water jets and a main iconic water feature that will reach as high as 45 feet, or almost a five story building.  The inlet water feature cascades water down a series of steps that harkens back to the historic trail the buffalos took to water at the river’s edge. 

As one of the longest fully accessible playgrounds in the country, the Lazy Dayz Outdoor Museum and Children’s Playground includes a state-of-the-art playground and interactive water fountain.   Its "barrier free” design was inspired by a consensus building workshop held with elementary school children and it allows children and families of all abilities to enjoy the entire park, as everything is ramped and ADA compliant. 

The memorial park houses an existing memorial dedicated to Charles E. Shelton and veterans of armed services. Other components of this park improvement project include street end overlooks, events pavilions and plazas, restroom/concession buildings, seating and swing benches, signage, and a +/- 20’ promenade at the river’s edge that allows continuous access to view the river. 

"’Let’s go downtown,’ is the new theme of social activities with the Park’s amenities take the definition of play time for people of all ages.  In the business community, many downtown merchants are experiencing growth of their own, and the hope is that this becomes a ripple effect for the entire community.  "On any given afternoon, the Park is vibrant with an abundance of laughter and chatter about how ‘awesome’ the amenities are,” says Owensboro Mayor, Ron Payne.  "This can be heard by visitors of all ages.”

As with most public projects, funding was certainly a challenge.  However, the political leaders of the community, which spanned three mayors and several city councils, focused on obtaining the necessary funding.   With this in mind, the landscape architect created a strategic and realistic plan and partnered with city leaders in the pursuit of funding.  Implementing this type of strategy built a stronger community spirit and helped the City of Owensboro and Davies County pass a tax for the riverfront and downtown development during one of the toughest economic times in the world. 

Smother’s Park was unveiled with much aplomb and praise.  "It is our hope that we have provided a mecca for not only our residents, but also for regional visitors to come and enjoy one of nature’s gifts,” says Payne.  


Project Manager: Jennifer Heeney, EDSA, Inc. 

Civil/Architecture/Electrical/Structural Engineering: Tetra Tech 

Irrigation: Sweeney and Associates 

Conceptual Architecture: Sky Studios, Inc. 

Water Feature Design: Delta Fountains 

Water Feature Design: WET Design, Inc. 

Playground Equipment: Cost of Wisconsin Incorporated

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MISSION STATEMENT Leading, educating, and participating in the careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of our cultural and natural environments.