EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a series exploring the parks in Frankfort and Franklin County and the variety of amenities each offers. The Frankfort Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites won the Department of the Year for a Class II Community by the Kentucky Recreation and Park Society for its outstanding contribution in recreation services. The City of Frankfort Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Department is a full-service department that features nine parks that include everything from nature trails, archery, disc golf, basketball courts, tennis courts, pickleball courts, playground equipment and historic sites. The department operates an 18-hole golf course on 94 acres, historic sites including Capital City Museum and Fort Hill, supports recreational venues including futsal, baseball, softball and volleyball, as well as local boat tours on the Kentucky River.
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You can’t stay home in the summertime without making at least one trip to Juniper Hill Park and Golf Course, which has been a staple in the community since it opened 61 years ago.
The city’s oldest park, Juniper Hill, which sits on 124 acres on the city’s west side, is divided into three distinct areas — the golf course, park and aquatic center, with the parking lot serving as the dividing line that separates the spaces.
Popular throughout the Bluegrass, Juniper Hill is an affordable, 18-hole public course for golfers of all ages and skill levels.
“We have very active men’s and ladies’ associations with between 175-200 members each,” said Kirk Schooley, who has spent the past 14 years as a golf pro.
In addition to a variety of leagues, the course is also home to several local fund-raising tournaments for the United Way, Frankfort Area Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, to name a few. Juniper Hill has also hosted many Kentucky Junior PGA events, and is home to the aptly-named Hill Raisers, a 13-and-younger league.
The annual Governor’s Open, which has become one of the elite tournaments in the state, debuted in 1965 and has brought big names in the golf world, such as Steve Flesch, Jodie Mudd, Russ Cochran, Fuzzy Zoeller and the late Larry Gilbert, to Frankfort over the years. This year, the pro-am tournament is slated for Sept. 7-9.
Billed as one of the most difficult No. 1 tees in the world, Juniper Hill boasts an opening tee box with obscured views of the fairway compliments of an enormous tree, which has been the topic of much debate over the years.
“About 50 percent (of golfers) want it taken out and the other 50 percent believe it’s the course’s signature feature,” Jim Parrish, City of Frankfort director of Frankfort Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites. “You either have to hit over it or around it.”
An 18-hole round of golf with a cart costs $34 on weekends and holidays and $31 on weekdays. Walking 18 holes is only $20 on weekends and holidays and $17 through the week. Season passes are also available.
There is also a full-service pro shop onsite.
The park area offers a paved walking track that’s nearly a mile long, seven pieces of resistance-training exercise equipment, playground areas for toddlers and big kids, two lighted sand volleyball courts, three horseshoe pits, four lighted tennis courts, two shelters with electricity, picnic areas with grills and a gazebo.
“The Juniper Hill Health and Wellness Trail ties in all pieces of the park,” Parrish added.
The trail meanders through the park, past several native plant beds sponsored by a variety of groups around the county, with a stop at the exercise station.
Funded, in part, by a grant from Go Greenfields Outdoor Fitness Equipment, the station, also handicap-accessible, features a leg press, vertical press, abs and dip station and a cross-country ski station.
The two sand volleyball courts play host to leagues three to four nights a week in the summer, Parrish added.
The park area is also home to numerous memorials including the Kentucky Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial, Purple Heart Memorial, WWII Submarine Memorial and Desert Storm Memorial.
Opened July 3, 2015, the center, has become a much-sought-after refuge on hot, humid summer days when the sun is blazing. The aquatic center offers something for all ages and abilities.
“We average between 500-600, sometimes even 700 people a day,” Parrish said of the Juniper Hill Aquatic Center, which features a lazy river, three slides, a children’s pool, lap pool and splash pad.
For new-to-the-water youngsters, there is a splash pad with several water features. The children’s pool, geared toward kids of all ages, offers a zero-entry activity center, including a slide and a gigantic bucket that fills gradually with water before tipping its load and a floating lily pad crossing.
The lazy river winds under a stone bridge and is armed with several sprinklers, water spouts and rows of buckets that drench those underneath.
The plunge pool boasts a red family slide, which is wide enough to allow more than one person to go down at a time. The other two slides, one that features a tunnel and one that is open, require swimmers to be a certain height and of a certain ability in order to use.
The lap pool, which is geared toward more experienced swimmers, also features a 12-foot deep end with two diving boards and a climbing wall for the most daring.
The pool is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12:30 p.m.-7 p.m. on Sundays.
Daily admission ranges from $5-$6 depending on age, with twilight rates of $3 per person offered after 4 p.m. each day. Season passes for individuals and families are also available, as is pool rental.
Swim lessons are also offered in two-week sessions throughout the summer. For more experienced swimmers, the pool also fields a swim team.