Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government


Lexington, KY


Landscape Architecture, Planning, Site Development


2024 ASLA Kentucky Merit Award in Design/Constructed Work

Contact Us

Named after the legacy of a decorated soldier, teacher and civil rights leader from Kentucky, the Charles Young Park and Community Center has stood as an essential public infrastructure for the diverse East End community for over 85 years. After recently renovating the park, community center and playground, an interactive water play feature called Splash! complements the renovations while also connecting the community to the Gresham Smith-designed Town Branch Commons greenway and providing education on Charles Young’s life and legacy.

years of history
historic park
kids pointing at photos
People sitting at a table and talking

Calling on the Community

As designers, it was important to ensure the new park lives up to Colonel Charles Young’s name and prioritizes the East End’s people and culture. Since beginning the design process, the project team hosted discussions and workshops with stakeholders at the park’s Community Center and gained vital feedback that informed the physical design of the water-play feature, walkways and safety features.

Historically, Splash! reflects the park’s past as the second recreation space for African Americans in a once-segregated city. It was important that every voice from the community was accounted for during the design and research process. Our team collaborated with local influential leaders to collect community-sourced stories that will be permanently integrated into the play space.

kids playing at Splash at Charles Young Park
an close-up shot of educational signage at Splash at Charles Young Park

A Design Fit for a Colonel

Design elements in the interactive splash pad illustrate the timeline and rich narrative of Charles Young’s life and will educate visitors on the cultural history of the East End neighborhood. For example, fountain cross streams symbolize Colonel Young’s braided arm band on his military uniform. Drawing upon the native Bluegrass landscape, the splash pad design mimics elements found in rural Kentucky such as creeks, shallow streams and steppingstones.

a map of downtown Lexington highlighting Splash! at Charles Young Park
an aerial shot of Splash! at Charles Young Park

Invested in Greenspace

Located directly off the Town Branch Commons greenway, Splash! is the missing piece to providing a direct and intentional connection between the Charles Young Park amenities and the citywide trail system. While the central feature is the splash pad, the project team sensitively delivered additional upgrades such as bench swings, native plantings, interpretative signage, and historic restroom renovation, without impacting the historic lawn and existing tree canopy. Splash!’s design prioritizes immersive storytelling through nature-inspired design and custom signage.

a close up shot of a rock at Splash! at Charles Young Park
children playing on the rocks at Splash! at Charles Young Park

Honoring the Namesake

The first park of its kind in East End, Splash! provides much-needed access to water play and park amenities. The design demonstrates how landscape architecture can blend history, culture, and functionality, enhancing community interaction. The project has been held up nationally as an exemplary public design process by Reimagining the Civic Commons.

What a wonderful addition to Charles Young, bringing water play space downtown and to the East End neighborhood, while telling the story of Brigadier General Charles Young. Lexington, Kentucky Mayor Linda Gorton