New water play zone added to Charles Young Park

Posted at 8:32 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 20:33:57-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Splash! A new water play zone will tell the story of the first African American to earn the rank of Colonel in the United States Army.

Col. Charles Young’s life will be conceptually illustrated through the water feature located in Charles Young Park, downtown in the East End neighborhood.

“We are bringing new life to Charles Young Park and Community Center,” Mayor Linda Gorton said. “We have already put in a new playground and resurfaced the basketball court. Town Branch Commons Trail will soon run right by the park and Splash!, making access convenient for nearby neighbors to walk or cycle to the facilities.”

The City of Lexington says Splash! will educate visitors about the rich cultural history of the East End neighborhood and the Park, which opened during the segregation of the 1930s and was the city’s second outdoor public recreation space for African-Americans.

The sizable water play feature will be the first of its kind in downtown Lexington. The design kept a wide variety of ages and abilities in mind, with plenty of input from neighbors, including neighborhood children.

“Neighborhood kids are taking part in a project that is changing the face of this neighborhood,” said Jill Wilson, William Wells Brown Community Center Director with Parks and Recreation. “Someday they will proudly look back and say, I did that, I made a difference!”


Splash! will also draw upon the Bluegrass landscape, mimicking karst, creeks, and streams found in the rural area. Using recirculating water, the water play area will include water bubbling up from stones, crossing water arches, and a constant shallow stream surrounded by stepping stones and artificial turf mounds for play or sitting.

Councilmember James Brown said, “Splash! will be treasured and enjoyed by the families of the East End because they helped design it. Similar to the new playground in Charles Young Park, every aspect of this water play feature was envisioned and developed by neighborhood residents through community engagement and partnership.”


Plans call for the addition of trees to cool off the area and native plantings. And the project includes renovation of the existing restroom building.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded Young with an honorary promotion to Brigadier General. In 2016, the Charles Young Center was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The cost of the privately funded project is $1.15 million, including a grant of $900,000 from Blue Grass Community Foundation [] with support from the following charitable donors and BGCF fund holders: Blue Grass Community Foundation, Community Ventures, J.M. Smucker Co., James and Martha Monroe Charitable Fund, and the Knight Foundation Donor Advised Fund.

Splash! also received a grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation’s Building Better Communities Grant, administered by the National Recreation and Park Association, for $250,000.