Congressman says downtown Lexington need water feature

Lexington Herald-Leader Publication

Congressman says downtown Lexington need water feature

The Associated Press

August 14, 2007. LEXINGTON, Ky. —
U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler says downtown Lexington needs a water feature. He said yesterday that in the past, the city covered up The Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek that now flows beneath Vine Street.

Chandler says people flock to water, whether a river, a stream, a lake or an ocean. He notes that a water feature along Vine could be financed with some of the $500,000 in federal money he helped earmark for downtown revitalization in Lexington.

The appropriation is included in the federal Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending bill. It has already been passed by the House and Chandler says he expects the Senate to approve it as well.

It’s unclear how the $500,000 appropriation would be spent in downtown Lexington if it’s approved. Mayor Jim Newberry said the most pressing needs would be identified once the money becomes available.

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Happy trails: Proponents say trails will be a big draw for city

Lexington Herald-Leader Publication

Happy trails: Proponents say hiking, biking opportunities
will be a big draw for city

Jennifer Hewlett, The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.Apr. 20–For years, Lexington leaders have envisioned a system of interconnecting trails that would run throughout Fayette County, providing places for people to bike and hike — and possibly serving as a draw for tourists and others hoping to get an up-close look at the Bluegrass.

Those plans have generally been a path to nowhere.

But this might be the year when many Lexingtonians are able to start dusting off their bicycles and lacing up their sneakers.

Before the year is out, Lexington’s trail mileage should nearly double with the construction of 6.5 more miles of paved trail for bicycling, walking and other types of non-motorized use. The mileage, scattered throughout Fayette County in six planned trail sections, will bring the total number of trail miles in Fayette County to nearly 15.

And city leaders, who say Lexington lags behind other cities in
recreational opportunities such as trails, plan to spend more money on trail-building next year. So far, there are plans to build 4 miles of trail in Fayette County in 2008. An additional 13.6 miles are on the drawing board.

Mayor Jim Newberry has proposed spending $2 million for trails in the next city budget. City officials say that local money could be parlayed into $10 million in new trails if used to match federal grants.

Newberry said the renewed focus on trail-building could bring a lot of benefits to Lexington.

“In addition to recreation, they are economic-development tools, they
are paths to improved health and can even be alternative
transportation,” he said this week as the city put the finishing
touches on the first mile of the Brighton East Rail Trail. That route
runs from Bryant Road to Pleasant Ridge Drive in southeastern Fayette

The mile-long section, which was paid for with $426,000 in federal funds and will be officially dedicated Sunday, is the first piece of trail built along an abandoned railroad corridor in Fayette County. The railroad abandonment runs from Lexington to just outside of Ashland.

“How can anybody not be for this?” said Lexington attorney Bill Gorton, who represents the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council, an organization that promotes turning abandoned railroad corridors into trails and greenways. “It is an absolute win-win for everybody, including neighbors.”

Trail sections to be built this year include:

— A second mile of the Brighton East Rail Trail, from Pleasant Ridge Drive to Deer Haven Lane, at a cost of $500,000.

— Town Branch Trail, 2 miles, from Long Branch Lane to Alexandria Drive, $550,000.

— South Elkhorn Trail, 1 mile, from Lockdale Terrace to Joseph Bryan Way, $200,000.

— Wellington Trail, a half-mile on Reynolds Road, from the traffic circle to the Shillito Park entrance, $150,000.

— Liberty Park Trail, a half-mile parallel to Flying Ebony Drive, $100,000.

— West Hickman Trail, a mile and a half, from Man o’ War Boulevard to Veterans Park, $1.5 million.

Construction is set to begin on the Liberty Park Trail section in the next couple of weeks. All of the trail projects planned for this year, which are being paid for with federal transportation dollars, should be complete before the end of the year, said Keith Lovan, a municipal engineer for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government who oversees local trail projects.

Trail proponents in Lexington point out that in other parts of the country, trails have led to an increase in tourism and the development of businesses along them, including bicycle shops and bed-and-breakfast inns.

“It actually increases the value of properties near or adjacent to
these trails,” Gorton said. “The people that use them are generally the kind of people you would want in your neighborhood.”

Van Meter Pettit, who has been working for years to get a trail built that essentially follows Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek, sees that particular proposed trail as more than something that would lead to health and economic benefits. He sees it as a way of restoring “dormant” history.

Lexington got its start along Town Branch, part of which now runs under Vine Street and emerges west of Rupp Arena.

“What happened was, the city was just a village — it was laid out on a creek, and then it outgrew the creek, and they kind of covered it up, bit by bit,” said Pettit, who is president of Town Branch Trail Inc. “A good century and a half of the city developed along the regular course of the creek.”

A half-mile section of Town Branch Trail, from Leestown Road to Long Branch Lane, opened in October 2005.

There is opposition to certain trail legs proposed for Lexington. Some people who live near proposed trail segments are concerned about loss of privacy and vandalism, Lovan said.

“It has proven not to be the situation,” he said. “A lot of times our biggest opponents become our biggest supporters.”

Kentucky is behind many states when it comes to trails. But several other cities and towns in the state, including Louisville, Bowling Green and Owensboro, have made a commitment to building them. Louisville, especially, has a good trail program, Lovan said.

“We have a plan for a 100-mile loop, known right now as the Metro Loop,” said Metro Louisville transportation planner Mohammad Nouri. Nineteen miles of the loop, which will encircle Jefferson County, are already in place. Construction is to begin on 8 more miles this summer, he said.

He said Lexington ought to be commended for the trails it’s building.

Lexington leaders hope to eventually have two major trail arteries —
one running north-south, from Veterans Park to the Kentucky Horse Park, and the other running east-west, from Masterson Station Park to Deer Haven Lane — to which neighborhood trailways would be connected. The exact routes for the north-south and east-west trails have not been determined, but three of the trail sections set to be built this year would be legs of the north-south and east-west trails, Lovan said.

“A lot of American cities have 20, 30, 60 miles of trails, and
Lexington is one of those great American cities that is catching up,” Pettit said. “Louisville sets a very high benchmark for us, and it’s a good thing. If we set our sights on emulating Louisville, then we’ll have a world-class trail system in no time.”If you go


The first section of the Brighton East Rail Trail will be dedicated at 2 p.m. Sunday in Pleasant Ridge Park. The event will include bike and pony rides, popcorn and prizes.


Lexington is getting 6.5 miles of biking and walking trails this year. The trail sections to be constructed are scattered throughout Fayette County.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.

These archives are stored on a SAVE ™ newspaper library system from MediaStream Inc., a Knight-Ridder Inc. company.

Town Branch Quotations from History

“The town layout was not to be oriented to the compass, but rather aligned to the Town Fork of Elkhorn Creek, whose course became the site of an elongated common ten poles (165′) wide. Lots were arranged on a grid in three rows, one on the rise south of the stream, extending to Hill (High) Street, and two on the more level north side divided by Main Street and bounded by Short Street.”

—1781 Lexington Town Plan.1

“This stream flows unseen beneath the streets of the city now and with scarce current enough to wash out its grim channels; but then it flashed broad and clear through the long valley which formed the town common, – a valley of scattered houses with orchards and corn fields and patches of cane.”

— James Lane Allen story, “James Gray,” in which the hero relates the tale of the Battle of Blue Licks while on the bank of the Town Fork.2

“They beheld a land of bewildering beauty; a land of running waters, of groves and glades and prairies and canebrakes; a land teeming with game, great herds of shaggy-maned buffalo, the lordly elk, the deer, the bear, and the panther, flocks of wild geese and turkeys and paroquettes—a land literally flowing with milk and honey.”

— Maude Lafferty’s description of Town Branch as seen by settlers in 1775.3

1 Clay Lancaster, Vestiges of the Venerable City, a Chronicle of Lexington, Kentucky (Lexington, KY: Lexington-Fayette County Historic Commission, 1978), 9.

2 James Lane Allen, “John Gray” (Lippincott’s Magazine, June 1892) in Wilson,Samuel M., ed. “Sesqui-Centennial Symposium: A symposium of tribute to Lexington on the occasion of the sesquicentennial anniversary of its birth” (Lexington, KY: 1925), 37.

3 Maude Lafferty, The Town Branch. 1917, p. 2.

Dry Stone Retaining Walls and Fences

Historic stone fences are a unique and distinctive feature of the Bluegrass landscape. An example of these fences can be seen at the former landfill on Old Frankfort Pike. In addition to stone fences, the Town Branch Trail will highlight other dry stone structures, retaining walls, which can be found along the Town Branch to maintain the stream banks and channel the water. British and Scotch-Irish craftsmen supervised much of the dry stone construction during the 1800s.

Dry stone structures do not depend on mortar to hold retaining walls or fences together. Instead, they rely on the skill of the craftsmen to shape and place individual stones as well as the forces of gravity and frictional resistance. Mortared walls generally have a shorter life span than dry stone walls because frozen rain and snow get trapped in mortared seams and push the joints apart. Due to construction techniques, dry stone retaining walls and fences can drain naturally without damage. Remarkably, as a dry stone structure settles over time, it actually becomes stronger. The dry stone retaining walls found along Town Branch have been exceptionally durable and have functioned well for up to two centuries and counting.


Alvey, R. G. Kentucky Bluegrass Country. pp. 37-47. 1992.
Dry Stone Conservancy.

Town Branch Trail Vision and Benefits

Recreation, Health and Alternative Transportation.

Envision yourself on a spirited jog from Masterson Station Park to Triangle Park, on a peaceful, shady trail unobstructed by automobiles. You arrive downtown, invigorated with exercise, and refresh yourself at an outdoor café. You then shop at small boutiques for that special gift to take home.

The Trail will provide a pleasant environment for walking, running, biking and roller-blading. The Trail will offer an alternative route to school, work, shopping, dining and entertainment, fostering more vibrant pedestrian tourism in downtown Lexington. An urban recreational trail will attract visitors and provide a necessary, but currently missing, component in Lexington’s urban renaissance. The Trail will connect downtown Lexington’s many commercial, dining, cultural, and public venues with the Convention Center and major hotels, providing a unique recreational outlet for meeting attendees.


Envision yourself standing at the banks of a spring, the same banks where stalwart settlers stood in the midst of the American Revolution and proclaimed this land Lexington and their home. You touch the limestone walls pioneer Kentuckians hand laid into frontier stations and admire restored buildings that were Lexington’s earliest industries. School children walk interpretive trails and receive an experiential lesson in local history.

Much of Lexington’s earliest history occurred along the banks of Town Branch Creek. Dry-laid stone settlers’ houses (circa 1790), an old stone mill (circa 1820), an historic rail line (circa 1830), an historic farmstead (circa 1850), and a former bourbon distillery are all still present beside the creek. The trail will connect Lexingtonians with their rich and varied history via a series of unique and historic landmarks.


Envision yourself listening to the soft gurgle of Town Branch as it winds through healthy masses of native vegetation. You enjoy whippoorwills frolicking in swaths of aromatic clover and cane. The wind tosses the long fronds of a willow tree and you notice chipmunks darting about its base and into the recesses of a dry-laid stonewall. Interpretive signage helps you understand the natural history and ecology of Town Branch.

Town Branch Trail will help restore Town Branch Creek. By making the creek a valuable public asset again, the Trail will discourage the pollution that has made the Town Branch one of the state’s unsavory waterways. Along the Trail we hope to restore native plants and wetlands to better serve wildlife, water quality, and flood control.

Community and Economic Development.

Envision yourself wondering through an open-air market while shopping from a myriad of artisans and organic farmers. You follow a long arcade of willow and cheery trees from a dry-laid stone pavilion and karst-inspired fountain to warehouses renovated into stylish loft spaces. You look further down the trail and old structures appear new again as Town Branch becomes an anchor of civic pride.

The Town Branch Trail will run through urban industrial areas and older neighborhoods that have witnessed decades of decline. By investing in this area with an attractive shared-use greenway trail, Lexington will encourage reinvestment and redevelopment that will connect with and extend the vitality of downtown.