Another perspective on why Lexington needs Town Branch Trail

The Creative Class- trail is a vital asset for attracting and retaining the workforce of the new creative economy.

What is driving the growth of the nation’s most successful communities today?
According to Richard Florida, a Carnegie Mellon Economics Professor who recently participated in Lexington’s IdeaFestival, the driving force behind the nation’s dynamic growth is the role of creativity in our economy and society. No longer driven by traditional trade routes or smokestack industries, the U.S. economy is now being fueled by a constant process of invention and innovation. The ‘Information’ or ‘Knowledge’ based economy in which we now live and work is growing and changing constantly due to the dynamic influence of a category of people whom Florida calls the ‘Creative Class’. This creative sector of the population has grown dramatically over the last few decades to where it currently accounts for over 30% of the work force. Most important, however, it the fact that this category of creative professionals is now responsible for the vast majority of growth in the U.S. economy. The highly educated and highly skilled individuals whom Florida defines as the ‘Creative Class’ are professionals in core areas of Science, Engineering, Architecture, Design, Education, Arts, and Entertainment, and in the supporting fields of Business, Finance, Law, Health Care, and Management. It naturally follows that the places experiencing the greatest economic growth in the nation are communities with a high concentration of this ‘Creative Class’. What is surprising, however, is that this ‘Creative Class’ is not staying in the traditionally largest or most populous locations. It is migrating to areas of the country where the quality of life is highest. These are locations that have strong educational institutions, ample outdoor or recreational amenities, and vibrant arts and cultural venues. These are places that are open, diverse, and tolerant of a variety of religions, cultures, and ethnicities.

Why does this relate to Town Branch Trail?
Because the creative individuals that Lexington wants to attract and retain for its economic and cultural prosperity are people who use trails. Florida describes in his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, how over the last 40 years the demand for physical exercise has grown enormously for individuals who use their minds for a living. There is a close correlation between trail users and creative professionals. Data compiled by the Iowa Department of Transportation reflects that trail users are on average more educated and have higher incomes than average Americans. A brief survey of the most dynamic communities in the nation will show that greenway trails are an essential ingredient in making these new centers of prosperity attractive to the ‘Creative Class’ responsible for their success.

How does Lexington rate as a creative city?
For metropolitan areas of between 500,000 and 250,000 people, Lexington ranks #9 out of a listing of 63. For more information go to and

Town Branch Trail Receives Environmental Project Approval

Lexington’s Town Branch Trail has recently received (April 2004) environmental authorization to proceed with construction. Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), any project receiving Federal funds must undergo an analysis of potential impacts to the natural or human environment. After a survey of the trail area by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet – Division of Environmental Analysis, the Federal Highway Administration determined that the Town Branch Trail posed no significant impact to the environment (e.g., no federally listed endangered plant species running buffalo clover was found). As a result of this approval, the Town Branch Trail takes another step forward.

How does Lexington measure up for its trail system?

Where do we stand in our efforts to provide Lexington with Greenway trails? As an ongoing feature of our newsletters, we will look at benchmark cities and compare our efforts with those of other cities around the country.

Lexington versus Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga 155,554
Lexington 260,512
Lexington is 67% larger

Chattanooga 36.8 years
Lexington 33 years
Lexington’s population is 10% younger

Chattanooga $32,006
Lexington $39,813
Lexington’s income is 24% higher

Chattanooga 21.5%
Lexington 35.6%
Lexington’s percentage is 65% greater

over 15 miles of paved trail with the largest trail being over 6 miles in length.
It runs into the center on the urban core.

approximately 13 miles of trail; 7 miles paved and 6 miles of grass trail. The largest continuous trail is 4 miles on grass at Masterson Station Park.

Despite the fact the Lexington is noticeably larger, younger, more prosperous, and better educated, Chattanooga,Tennessee has built more miles of trails and put together longer continuous distances.

Here’s the good news:
Under the Newberry Administration and the current LFUCG council Lexington has picked up the pace of trail planning and development dramatically. We can optimistically state that the trajectory we are on today will allow us to catch up with the successes of other benchmark cities.

To learn more about Chattanooga’s success log on to:
(This piece was written a few years ago and the totals for Lexington and Chattanooga have undoubtedly increased. We welcome any updated available.)


From 1994-2003 the state of Tennessee received $168 million is transportation enhancements funding. Of those funds $121 million or 72% of the funds served bicycle and pedestrian improvements. During that same period the state of Kentucky received $132 million in TE funding and we spent $25 million on bicycle and pedestrian improvements or 18.9% of the total funds. Why the discrepancy? Why has Tennessee put a vastly greater emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure? You might wonder how that squares with the national trend in TE funding. For FY 2004 the US will spend $290 million in TE funds. Of that 68% will go for bike/ped and rail/trail projects. Since we are one of the nation’s leaders in obesity and diabetes, wouldn’t you think we would be more committed to giving Kentuckians a way to exercise?

Note: Since this was written for a newsletter in 2005 Kentucky has raised its level of trail funding considerably. Let’s hope it continues.


from The Trails and Greenways Clearinghouse

Tools for Conservation
As tools for conservation, trails and greenways preserve important natural landscapes, provide needed links between fragmented habitats and offer tremendous opportunities for protecting plant and animal species. Partially due to expansive development, “islands” of habitat dot the landscape, isolating wildlife and plant species and reducing habitat necessary for their survival. Trails and greenways provide important links between these island populations and habitat and increase the land available to many species.
* The preserved Pinhook Swamp between Florida’s Osceola National Forest and Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge protects a vital wildlife corridor. This greenway keeps intact an important swampland ecosystem that sustains numerous wildlife species including the Florida black bear, timber rattlesnake and the Florida sandhill crane.
* In March 1999, 12,638 acres of critical wetland habitat along the Rio Grande in Cameron, Texas were added to the National Wildlife Refuge system, creating a larger ecological system needed by migratory birds.1
Improving Air Quality
Trails and greenways improve air quality by protecting the plants that naturally create oxygen and filter out air pollutants such as ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and airborne particles of heavy metals. According to a study conducted by David Nowak, in 1991 natural tree-related air filtration provided Chicago, Illinois with $1 million in annual air pollution removal.2
Trails and greenways link neighborhoods with shopping and entertainment districts and provide pleasant transportation alternatives for commuting to work and school. Municipalities include trails and greenways into city plans not only for recreational purposes, but also to encourage the use of alternative modes of transportation.
* A 1991 Harris Poll found that 46% of those surveyed said that they would bike to work if designated trails were built.3
* Seattle, Washington’s Burke-Gilman Trail is a popular route for commuting. A 1990 trail survey found that 37% of the bicyclists and 7% of the pedestrians used the trail for commuting.4
* A 1997 trail use study of the Iron Horse Regional Trail in California found that approximately one-third of those surveyed use the trail for transportation purposes, including commuting to work or school, or using the trail as an alternative route to access shopping areas and restaurants.5

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