Dear Town Branch Trail supporter,
On behalf of the board of Town Branch Trail, Inc. I would like to extend our deepest thanks for your support in this passing year. At this time of New Year, holidays, and thanksgiving we would like you to know that with your support we are working to make a beautiful trail and by extension a beautiful city. Members of the community like you are invaluable to us in making this project a reality. In this tenth year of our efforts we have witnessed a watershed of breakthroughs. Here below are some of the biggest:
1) The first 1.8 miles of Town Branch Trail are nearing completion. By springtime the last half-mile will be finished. It has been a joy to watch the trail grow and become well used. McAlister Stone is installing beautiful drystone mileposts, furlong posts, and benches crafted from “Kentucky Marble” quarried near Shakertown. We are also installing three more of our environmental education signs in the spring. Look for a big dedication/celebration in early summer 2009.
2) The rest of the west side of TBT, from Alexandria Drive to Newtown Pike Extension is being contracted for feasibility and trail design. An additional mile of the trail will begin construction over this next year. The section next to proceed in construction will connect McConnell Springs Nature Park with Town Branch Creek and run west up to New Circle Road. We will share these plans with you as they develop.
3) Sections of Town Branch Trail are included in both TIF projects approved by the LFUCG Council and are awaiting approval by the state. TIF stands for tax incremental financing, a funding mechanism that would allow the creation of a trail through the Manchester Street Distillery District as well as to make a Vine Street Linear Park through the downtown core. These TIF projects represent miles of what TBT has been proposing as trail for many years and it is a great endorsement of our concept that the city is making these great strides. Nothing is guaranteed even with the TIF approved; private developments will need to take shape for these opportunities to be realized, so we will keep you posted as it unfolds.
4) RJ Corman Railroad Group has proposed a 15-mile rail-with-trail that would run from Manchester Street beside Town Branch Creek all the way to Versailles on the shortline that the company owns and currently operates. At TBT, Inc. request the city has commissioned a feasibility study to determine how this might be accomplished. If this rail line were to be fully exploited, it would take pedestrians and bikers all the way to Lawrenceburg over the Kentucky River on Young’s High Bridge for a distance of 22 miles (Though compelling, this is not a simple matter: there are four owners and a massive 100-year-old iron bridge of undetermined structural status). Because this spectacular line connects two distilleries and runs behind Keeneland and right into TBT, we felt compelled to step forward.
5) Another LFUCG Masterplan adopts TBT and our concepts as major components of their recommendations. In the first downtown masterplan Ayers Saint Gross recommended transforming the Vine Street corridor into a continuous linear park based on our trail concept plan. The new streetscape masterplan by KKG avoids the big linear park idea on Vine Street but takes up the idea of a major plaza behind Rupp Arena that we first pitched a year and a half ago as NEW TOWN BRANCH. They also suggest opening up Vine Street as a greenway, but at the request of the city, in a less emphatic way. Although we are not in perfect agreement with all that these outside consultants have suggested, by in large, it is fantastic work for Lexington. For our goals and efforts it has been a big help to get repeated support and emphasis from these successive masterplans. We will be continuing our mission to get the idea of a linear park through to government and community leadership. Watch for this in the spring.
6) Town Branch Trail, Inc. made the transition to a full-time nonprofit. We saved a fortune over the years with donated labor and borrowed space, but the demands for time and attention grew too great for this to continue. The community outpouring has been nothing short of spectacular, especially considering the financial climate. We have set a goal of raising $500,000 by 2010 to run the organization and in our first year we have pledges of $200,000 with cash donations of over $65,000. Thanks to all of you who have been so very generous. Your gifts are being well used and are deeply appreciated.
7) Our Environmental Education Project is poised for completion in 2009. Based in research and successive grants, TBT has created a series of signs to be installed along the trail to inform the general public about basic watershed information and how the built environment impacts the natural system of urban waterways. In addition, we are currently editing a 3-part package of video, print, and online material to be distributed for use throughout Bluegrass middle school classrooms. With interviews from experts in history, water quality, equine, and bourbon distilling, this project should be a great way to raise youth awareness of our special region. It is tailored to fit KERA curriculum precisely. Look for updates on this in the coming months.
8) TBT has been working closely with the Blue Grass Community Foundation, the Knight Foundation, and the Legacy Project to create a series of links between the proposed North-South Legacy Trail and our West-East Town Branch Trail. Our goal is to provide the city with a seamlessly connected trail system that encircles the Downtown and takes bikes and pedestrians into our famed Bluegrass Horse Country.
With great thanks and best wishes for 2009,
Van Meter Pettit, AIA