Trying out new trail

Lexington Herald-Leader Publication

Posted on Sun, Oct. 09, 2005with photos:


More than 100 test first leg of route at McConnell’s Trace subdivision

By Ryan Alessi


Road bikes, mountain bikes, strollers and scooters.

Wagons, wheelchairs, an old-time high-wheeler bicycle and even a homemade four-seater “quad” bike.

If it had wheels and wasn’t motorized, it probably was on the first leg of the new Town Branch Trail yesterday morning.

More than 100 Lexington residents attended the opening of the half-mile stretch of asphalt that winds behind the McConnell’s Trace subdivision. That new section hooks up to a trail that runs through Masterson Station Park, just across Leestown Road.

“We could not be more grateful and excited that this day has finally come,” said Van Meter Pettit, president of Town Branch Trail Inc.

By next year, Pettit said, he hopes the trail will extend a mile and a half farther, to Alexandria Drive — a key step to connecting the community through trails.

The long-term plan, he said, is to have trails linking the Kentucky Horse Park and the University of Kentucky’s Coldstream research campus, off Newtown Pike, to Masterson Station Park and the Town Branch Trail.

“What if we could connect our tourist destinations with trails so people can be bicycle tourists instead of riding in station wagons?” Pettit mused.

Bike enthusiasts are pushing for precisely that.

“We hope Lexington will get to the point of other residential cities, where you can commute on the trails and off of the roadways,” said Wendy Trimble, who with husband Mark owns Pedal the Planet bike shop.

The store’s employees as well as some from another bike shop, Pedal Power, offered bike safety checks at yesterday’s event.

“There’s fabulous riding in the Bluegrass area, especially around the horse farms,” Trimble said. “But the city itself needs more infrastructure.”

This first half-mile of the Town Branch Trail has been years in the making.

Initially, Pettit said, he had planned for the section of trail to open in 2003. But it was delayed until enough of the subdivision had been developed.

Dennis Anderson, owner of the construction company that’s building the homes, donated the land for the trail, which was appraised at roughly $800,000. City officials then used that contribution to leverage $450,000 in federal grant money to pay for the two miles of trail between Masterson Station and Alexandria Road.

Not only was no local tax money spent, but now the trail will increase land value, which will boost the city’s property tax revenue, Pettit told the crowd yesterday.

Anderson said he hopes the trail will increase awareness of the Town Branch stream, which is historically significant to Lexington.

The McConnell brothers, who explored the Central Kentucky area centuries ago, used the waterway as a navigational tool to discover what is now downtown Lexington, he explained.

Organizers placed temporary signs along the trail yesterday explaining the environmental function of the stream, which has been polluted over the decades.

After the brief celebratory remarks, bikers, walkers and stroller-pushers streamed through on the official inaugural trip.

“There’s a lot of different ways you can use this trail,” Mayor Teresa Isaac said.

Two of the organizers — Pettit and Zina Merkin — as well as Democratic state Sen. Ernesto Scorsone joined Chevy Chase resident Alex Meade on his homemade “quad” bike, which Meade assembled mostly from aircraft tubing.

But the four weren’t quite in sync, which made the bike wobble and tip, dumping Scorsone on the asphalt.

Scorsone was the trail’s first casualty, but he wasn’t hurt.

The quartet drew applause after Scorsone followed the old cliche: If you fall off your bike, get back on and try it again.

“I’m going to give bike lessons after that,” he joked.

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