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What better way to get to know Today’s Woman than through her Current Obsessions? This month we meet a woman who is charged with protecting our Olmsted parks and has a passion for dahlias. 

Layla George has served as president and CEO of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy since the beginning of 2018. Prior to that she was director of development for Louisville Public Media. She has a background in local food farming, land conservation, and environmental issues. She grew up near Cherokee Park and loves Louisville’s parks and parkways designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Her current obsessions:

Books and Carmichael’s Bookstore

I love books. I love having books around. I love Carmichael’s and independent bookstores. I love reading. Every year, as my husband (Mike Clark) and I read a book, we line them up on top of a dresser. Then, at the end of the year I take a photo of the books that we have completed. I read a mixture of fiction, which I enjoy the most, and nonfiction as it relates to Frederick Law Olmsted’s life and work, or books on business strategy and marketing. I recently read Spying on the South by Tony Horwitz, who followed the journey taken in 1850 by Olmsted. He traveled as an undercover reporter for The New York Times and wrote on the lives and beliefs of Southerners. It offers a look at a specific period of Olmsted’s life and shows the way that his experiences shaped his view on landscape architecture. That time he spent camping out each night and seeing such a wide variety of natural landscapes inspired him to design public parks that could create transformative experiences for people in their everyday lives. 

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Fête in the Forest

 This year is the 30th anniversary of the Conservancy, and I’ve been busy planning a fundraising progressive dinner celebration in Iroquois Park — Fête in the Forest. It takes place September 14. We will start with cocktails and music at the North Overlook followed by a catered farm-to-table dinner under the trees. The evening concludes at the Iroquois Amphitheatre for a concert with Preservation Hall Brass Band from New Orleans.  



I have both a vegetable and a flower cutting garden. This year I have 14 different varieties of the dinner plate dahlia, which are really big. My newest is one called Cafe Au Lait. I have four raised beds outside the back door, and every morning I go out and water and weed. The beds were built about five years ago and they bring me so much happiness. 


Interpretive Hikes

Once a month the Conservancy offers members an educational hike to identify spring wildflowers, trees, or birds. I go on all of them. I love knowing the names of the parks’ trees and flowers. It’s been really fun. It enriches my experience when I’m out on my own and can identify what I’m seeing. Also, it’s great to have a staff that knows all the answers. I can take photos and ask one of them the name of the flower or the tree that I have come across. 

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Festive Weeknight Dinners

Lately, my husband and I have been enjoying a weeknight dinner seated at the bar in a local restaurant. We’ll have a full dinner, but instead of taking three hours it’s just a quick, enjoyable time. It feels a little more festive on a weeknight. We’ll sit at the bar and have dinner and we can chat and be a part of that crowd. We especially like going to The Pine Room or Grassa Gramma. Sometimes we will walk the scenic loop in Cherokee Park and then walk up to ROC on Bardstown Road for dinner. 


Free Play program

At the Conservancy, we are working on a project to develop a free play program, which will offer kids an unstructured environment where they can use their imagination and is more engaging than just your typical playground with a slide and swing-set. Studies show that kids actually are injured far less during free play because in a too-structured playground, they get bored after a while and inject risk on their own. Free play encourages teamwork as well. For example, children have to work together to move around loose hay bales to create a fort or other structure. Free play offers them a space to imagine and entertain themselves.

P.S. Have you passed by this not-so-secret garden on Cherokee Road?

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