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By ROBERT VILLANUEVA email@example.com BRANDENBURG — Visitors to Otter Creek Park might be aware that the 2,600-acre park located in Meade County offers camping, fishing, horseback riding and hiking.
But what some visitors might not know is the park, which is part of the Louisville Metro Parks system, also offers a water play area, astronomical observatory, adventure programs and other attractions that make it a desirable destination for summer fun.
The water play area is the most recently added attraction. It was dedicated May 24 and encompasses 2,000 square feet.
“Really, it’s part of our playground,” said Dan Young, park administrator.
The new interactive attraction features two geysers, a tower, two water cannons and a flower that creates a mist. Set on a timer, the area is open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. seven days a week from May to October, dependent on the weather.
People take towels to the area, giving it a beach-like atmosphere, Young said.
For those who want something more daring, the park also offers rappelling, rock climbing and adventure races.
“We have public program offerings set up throughout the summer,” said Jack West, program coordinator.
Canoeing, camping, craft making, marathons and a 50-foot alpine tower climb are among the other programs available at the park.
The park also is home to a disc golf course and the “oldest disc golf club in the state,” West said.
Corporate and business groups can find the programs useful, too.
“We do a lot of team building,” West said.
Trust building and communication skills are necessary to meet the challenges presented by those programs, he said. Categories in the team building program are group activities, low ropes course, rescue course and team orienteering, each with special goals and challenges.
But special programs also are offered, such as Threshing Days and Halloween Family Fest at the campground. Threshing Days, which is held July 5 and July 6, includes exhibits of antique tractors.
If climbing the earth or hiking it is not enough of a getaway for visitors, they can get a glimpse of the cosmos at the Otter Creek Observatory. The observatory is the result of collaboration between the park, Jefferson Community College and the Challenger Learning Center of Hardin County, and it offers public observing sessions at night and during the day.
“That’s really a popular program,” Bryan Lewis, naturalist, said.
Free public observing sessions are offered once a month each for day and evening hours. The evening sessions allow visitors to explore the moon, stars and planets, while the day sessions offer a safe way to observe the sun and its features, such as sunspots.
Park visitors also can do some astronomical exploring on their own by taking advantage of the observatory’s free telescope loaning program. For the cost of a security deposit, visitors can borrow a telescope for two weeks, like checking out a book from a library.
Wildlife and nature buffs have a variety of programs to choose from at Otter Creek Park, too. The Otter Creek Park Nature Center offers nature hikes, river clean ups, bird watching programs, cave tours, geology programs and wildlife display programs, among other things.
The Nature Center features living reptiles, amphibians and fish that are indigenous to the area, Lewis said.
“We don’t keep any birds or mammals,” he said.
But visitors to the park might be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the national symbol, the bald eagle.
“Especially in the winter time, when the leaves are off the trees,” Lewis said.
Fossils, hands-on displays and a “bug room” are among the other features of the Nature Center.
Otter Creek Park also is known for its campgrounds and cabins.
“We have cabins that sleep 30; campgrounds that sleep 80,” Young said.
Many of the facilities, he said, are booked well in advance.
The beauty of the park is not lost on spouses-to-be. The park offers packages for weddings that are held at the Conference Center, and word-of-mouth keeps its calendar full.
“There are very few weekends available from May until the end of October,” Lewis said.
With so many activity choices — some available for free and others for a fee — visitors might be overwhelmed. But they can get help with what their looking for.
“The Web site helps a lot,” Young said. IF YOU GO Otter Creek Park is located off Ky. 1638 almost three miles after turning off U.S. 31W in Muldraugh. For more information, call (502) 942-3211 or visit www.ottercreekpark.org. Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743.