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The gates to the Elizabethtown Nature Park remain closed off Ring Road as contractors continue their work, but Mayor Tim Walker said the city hopes to open the park to the public soon.
Walker said Friday the park should open within the next week to 10 days unless delays arise. Contractors have to complete a list of items before they turn the park back over to the city, he said.
The park was temporarily opened last Sunday to publicly unveil the Hardin County Veterans Tribute, a polygon star formation with granite monoliths and bronze sculptures paying homage to the five branches of the military and civil service. The tribute serves as centerpiece of the park.
Rik Hawkins, a member of the Hardin County Veterans Tribute committee, estimated 2,500 to 3,000 attendees descended on the park to catch a glimpse of the tribute on Veterans Day.
“It is hard to gauge it for sure because it’s not a ticketed event,” Hawkins said.
He said the committee was excited about the park’s opening so the full public can have access to the tribute.
“I think we’re all anxious in the county and central Kentucky to have it open and able to visit,” Hawkins said.
Walker said contractors have grading work and landscaping to finish before the park is ready to go. Because of safety concerns, the city felt it was better to lock the gates and keep the park closed while final touches are placed, he said.
“Those are some things we knew” in advance, Walker said.
Construction was completed to a level in which the public could visit the site for the tribute, he added.
Once open, visitors can peruse the park’s grounds from early morning to the edge of dark, which is similar to hours at Freeman Lake Park, Walker said.
“It’s going to be basically daylight to dark,” he said.
The park includes parking areas, a pavilion and a walking trail that connects to the Freeman Lake Park trail system. The two trails intersect within a walking tunnel nestled underneath Ring Road. Walker said the Nature Park trail ends near the pavilion, but the city wants to lengthen the trail around the perimeter of the park.
No money has been allocated for the trail’s extension this year and the mayor was uncertain when work would commence, but he said Elizabethtown City Council may discuss the trail’s completion during budget talks next year.
Discussions also have arisen about the construction of an amphitheater or nature center inside the park. During the initial design phase of the park, Walker said, a center was pitched as a location where students could host field trips and other group functions.
Hawkins and the committee have divulged a possible need for a site in the future to display local military artifacts donated by veterans and families, such as a museum wing to a nature center. Hawkins said the committee has already received items.
But Walker said the city has not made any final determinations about when or if such a structure will be built.
“That will be later on,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.