The Olmsted Parks Conservancy CEO and Board of Trustees with donors Norman and Belita Noltemeyer.

When a parcel of land was listed for sale near Louisville’s Olmsted-designed Cherokee Park, developers saw a building opportunity. Fortunately, some generous park neighbors saw a better opportunity – one to create more park land and preserve green space for future generations.  

On December 15, 2021, Olmsted Parks Conservancy announced it had received the largest financial gift in its history. The Conservancy received a generous $8 million donation from Norman and Belita Noltemeyer used to purchase approximately 25 acres of land currently on the property of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The property acquisition is the first major expansion to Louisville’s Olmsted park system in more than 100 years!

The Noltemeyer family has lived in the Alta Vista neighborhood for over two decades and enjoyed the park-like atmosphere of the Seminary property. The seminary listed the 25 acres for sale  in February 2019. The Noltemeyers wanted to preserve the rolling open fields, the beautiful woodland trails along Beargrass Creek, and access to Cherokee Park for generations to come 

With their generous gift, the Noltemeyers have ensured that the property will be enhanced and protected for the benefit of the entire community. The newly-acquired land will be an expansion of Cherokee Park’s existing footprint for the purpose of preservation. Beargrass Preserve will ultimately mean greater access and opportunity to enjoy Cherokee Park. 

“To whom much is given, much is required, and we feel blessed to be in a position to make this contribution to the community,” said Norman Noltemeyer. “Belita and I have raised our family here. This place is special to us and we are so grateful that we can help preserve the natural beauty of this property.” 

“We are thrilled to live in a community with neighbors like Norman and Belita Noltemeyer who share a passion for preserving parkland and greenspace in the city,” said Lisa Causarano, President of the Alta Vista Neighborhood Association. “We look forward to many generations being able to enjoy this extension of Cherokee Park.” 

Frederick Law Olmsted designed Cherokee Park in 1891 and the firm continued working in the neighborhood for several decades. The firm was  involved in the design of numerous private estates on Alta Vista Road, most notably the Norton family estate, now Gardencourt at the Seminary. 

“One of the things that makes the Alta Vista Neighborhood so unique is the proximity to Cherokee Park and the park-like feel of the entire neighborhood. To be able to preserve this legacy is so important to the Alta Vista Neighborhood Association and we are deeply grateful to the Noltemeyer family for this incredible gift,” said Causarano. 

“Louisville has a long-standing legacy of preserving land and creating unique green space that support our city’s quality of life and appeal,” said Layla George, President and CEO of Olmsted Parks Conservancy. “We are eternally grateful to the Noltemeyer family for their generosity and vision to increase our parks footprint across the community.” 

The property is located on the east, west and south sides of the Seminary’s campus and is bounded by Alta Vista Road and Beargrass Road. A portion of the property has Seminary residential housing buildings on the bluff overlooking the park. Olmsted Parks Conservancy has raised $500,000 to demolish the buildings and clear the way for the new park land. Once the demolition is complete, the Conservancy will then initiate a master planning process to determine a design for the property, while also seeking input from key stakeholders and neighbors. The acquisition will have a notable impact on park usage as it will expand walking trails, bike paths and outdoor access for all park goers. 

The Seminary has been at this site since 1963, allowing approximately nine acres along Beargrass Creek to be used as an extension of Cherokee Park for decades, with numerous hiking and biking trails connecting it to the rest of the park 

“We are pleased to see this property preserved and provided as a natural space for everyone to enjoy,” said Dr. Alton B. Pollard III, President of the Seminary which was founded in 1853. “We couldn’t anticipate a better outcome for the usage of this space as it allows us to be neighbors with the natural landscape for many years to come.” 

Learn more about Louisville’s Olmsted Parks Conservancy. Read our previous Spotlight on Olmsted Parks Conservancy here

This article first appeared in the April 1, 2022, issue of Field Notes by the National Association for Olmsted Parks.