EDITORS NOTE: This is the first of a series exploring the parks in Frankfort and Franklin County and the variety of amenities each offers.
Looking for an affordable way to escape the hum-drum of city life without leaving the county?
Surrounded by breath-taking beauty, at Cove Spring Park, it’s easy to forget you’re in the heart of the Capital City.
Located near the northern city limits where Holmes Street merges with U.S. 127, the park offers 8 miles of trails (some of which are paved); 250 acres of wetlands, streams, ponds, waterfalls and springs forest; biodiversity; endangered species; historic structures, including a log cabin; picnic facilities; a Children’s Memorial; archery range and 3-D course; scenic views; butterfly and hummingbird gardens; Monarch butterfly stations; and prairie plots.
Divided into 3 sections, — the Lower Cove, home to a nature preserve and trails; the Upper Cove, which offers the Sky Trail and archery park; and the Wetlands, a trail through a natural wetland habitat — Cove Spring is a hidden gem in the Capital City.
Steeped in Frankfort history, the lower park, the last right turn on U.S. 127 before heading up a hill to Peak’s Mill, was once a buffalo crossing. Native Americans also used the spring prior to it becoming the original site of Frankfort’s first local water supply.
In 1800, settlers built a 25- to 30-foot stone wall — of which, remnants and an overflow tower still stand — in the ravine below the springhead to form a reservoir and the first public water supply west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Four years later, Richard Throckmorton designed a system for transporting water down an area that’s now Holmes Street to the Kentucky Penitentiary and downtown. He used a 3-mile system of 10-foot cedar logs that were 6 to 8 inches in diameter, bored through (like a straw) and connected with wooden pins. In fact, the spring was originally called Cedar Cove Spring because of the use of the cedar logs. The Capital City Museum and Kentucky Historical Society have pieces of the wooden pipes on display.
The lower park also features Hurst Falls, a manmade waterfall dedicated to former caretakers Jerry and Tammy Hurst, which will never run dry, said Frankfort Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Director Jim Parrish.
The Children’s Memorial Garden, located on the back meadow of the Meadow Trail loop, was erected by The Compassionate Friends and dedicated to the parents of deceased children in 2006. It offers park-goers a serene place to reflect and honor the memory of lost loved ones and features 65 engraved brick pavers around the memorial with the names of a few of those honored.
Each July, The Compassionate Friends, a support network for those dealing with grief, host a brick dedication ceremony and picnic in the Children’s Memorial Garden.
The Wetlands, which are nestled in the crook of U.S. 127 North (across from the lower park), offers a raised, weather-resilient trail and a mulched path through the natural habitat that features native plants and animals. A creek trickles through the marshland and is the home of a few beaver dams.
The Wetlands trail also offers connectivity to River View Park near Lewis Ferry Road.
The Upper Cove, accessible via the first right off Peak’s Mill Road atop the U.S. 127 hill, features three separate archery ranges; Sky Trail — a paved recreational trail; and a timber-frame shelter.
The target range is divided into two sections — the practice range and a National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) range. The practice range consists of 10 targets with two targets at distances of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards. The NASP range consists of up to 20 NASP-style, 80cm FITA face targets, which will be set up at 10 and 15 meters.
The 3-D range, located behind the target range along a loop trail through the woods, offers 15 realistic 3-D animal targets on individually-numbered lanes, which are numbered, contain a bow rack and are marked with different colored yardage pins indicating the distance to the target.
Parks and Rec offers archery clinics, leagues, and rentals, as well as, guided tours of the park during the warmer seasons.
According to Parrish, the parks department plans to improve educational programs, displays and maps at the park. There is always work to eradicate invasive plants and sow more native plants, he said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held in July, although no specific date has been set, for the new connectivity trail linking Cove Spring to Schenkel Lane.