Smothers Park remains a community gathering place | Community
Located along the Ohio River in downtown Owensboro, Smothers Park is known to many as the crown jewel of park facilities operated by Owensboro Parks and Recreation.
Long part of the community, the land that now constitutes the park at 199 W. Veterans Blvd. has been a community gathering place since 1816.
While the park that includes the Lazy Dayz Playground, the Charles E. Shelton Memorial, and the iconic fountains is known to many as Smothers Park, it didn’t always have the nickname.
Keith Lawrence reported in the August 23, 2012 edition of The Messenger-Inquirer that the park has also been known as Riverside Park, Riverview Park, and Riverfront Park at different times.
In 1963, the Daviess County Historical Society mounted a successful campaign to have the park renamed in honor of Bill Smeathers (Smothers). Smothers is believed to have built the first log cabin on land just west of the park in what was then known as the Yellow Banks.
Amanda Rogers said that since reopening to the public in August 2012 after extensive renovations and additions, Smothers Park has played a key role in developing the city‘s downtown atmosphere.
“It’s the jewel in the crown, and when I think of this place, I really give credit to Mayor Tom Watson, who really spearheaded the initial development of the waterfront plan, and then he changed to Mayor Ron Payne. , who took this mayor. Watson had started and really driven it home for our community,” she said.
Now the site of community events such as the Owensboro Air Show and the Owensboro All-American Fourth of July, the park has become a hub for community members.
“Between the park, the RiverPark Center, the Bluegrass Museum, the Convention Center, it really is a wonderful heart of our community in terms of programming and activity,” Rogers said. “Having Smothers Park connecting these places really makes these transitions from place to place a real entertainment destination.”
Smothers Park can be separated into three different sections: a feature fountain area with a water entrance, the Lazy Dayz outdoor museum and children’s play area, and the Shelton Memorial.
The fountains feature programmable lighting and the ability to set up two different water shows, which rotate every 30 minutes. The playground includes a state-of-the-art playground with large replicas of native Kentucky wildlife, as well as a spray park.
The memorial area of the park is home to the Charles E. Shelton Memorial.
Rogers said that while Smothers Park is an outdoor park space, it’s operated more like a park facility, with employees typically on site between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
“They talk regularly with people who come to visit the park, and I’m always surprised how many people come from out of town and out of state and sometimes even from overseas,” she said. declared. “We get emails that say, spoke with someone from Texas today, spoke with someone from Iowa today…we had three visitors from Florida today.”
Although its name has changed over the years, Smothers Park is still used by the community for the same reason it was established over 200 years ago – as a community gathering place.
“A community gathering place large enough to host community-style events, where everyone feels comfortable and safe to come and visit,” Rogers said.