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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
County.

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.

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Trying out new trail


Lexington Herald-Leader Publication


Posted on Sun, Oct. 09, 2005with photos: http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/news/12856505.htm

TRYING OUT A NEW TRAIL

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

By Ryan Alessi

HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER

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.


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

Landmarks along Town Branch

Masterson Station Park. Lexington’s largest park, once pastures for Kentucky’s first Methodist Church built in 1787. Rambling park offers equestrian facilities, a dog run, soccer fields, bird nesting areas and ample greenspace.

Town Branch Greenway Phase I and II of the trail have been planned, funded and await construction. This initial two mile segment runs from Bracktown and the entrance of Masterson Station to Lewis Manor and Alexandria Drive.

Lewis Manor. Federal-style national register home built at the turn of the 19th century by Col. Thomas Lewis, a Revolutionary War veteran. Home is adjacent to historic spring that feeds Town Branch.

Wolf Run Creek. As a tributary to Town Branch Creek, Wolf Run provides a potential link for a trail into the Cardinal Valley neighborhood.

Veterans’ Hospital. Handsomely landscaped campus of stately Colonial Revival medical buildings that have served the Bluegrass since 1931.

Former City landfill. This site is undergoing extensive environmental clean up. Like Raven’s Run, it has the potential to provide vital reclaimed greenspace.

Old Woolen Mill. Built circa 1820, this large stone ruin is the oldest remaining industrial building along Town Branch. The mill later served as a jail and city work house. It is owned by the urban-county government.

Spring Hill Farm. National register Greek Revival farmhouse and outbuildings circa 1850 encircled by a rock fence. It is owned by the urban-county government.

McConnell Springs. Site of the founding of Lexington in 1775. A recently dedicated city park with a engaging interpretive trail. The Blue Hole spring and lofty bur oaks afford a pleasant stroll through our unique karst topography.

McConnell Houses. William and James McConnell, pioneer founders of Lexington, built two dry-laid stone houses circa 1790 along Town Branch Creek. These are among the oldest structures remaining in the Bluegrass.

James E. Pepper Distillery. Home to “Old 1776.” One of the earliest sites for bourbon making in the Bluegrass pulled water from a neighboring spring. Large buildings used in bourbon-making remain beside Town Branch Creek.

Town Branch Creek Stone Walls. Despite a century of neglect, dry-laid stone creek banks that date back to Lexington’s early history still line the stream.

Mary Todd Lincoln House. The childhood home of one of Lexington’s most famous citizens is now a beautifully restored house museum with a formal garden.

Lexington Civic Center and Heritage Hall. A premiere state venue for conventions, athletics, and entertainment. In Triangle Park a 300-foot long cascading fountain is a favorite gathering place on summer evenings.

Old Courthouse and Cheapside Park. The Old Courthouse was built in 1899 on the site used for Fayette County Courthouses for 200 years. Cheapside Park has been the scene of a wide spectrum of community history from slave auctions, early schools and markets to political speeches and public riots.

Farmer’s Market. On Saturday mornings during the growing season Lexingtonians can find the finest local and regional produce at this vibrant outdoor marketplace. Site of former 1879 Lexington City Market House.

New Courthouse Plaza and Phoenix Park. New public urban spaces stand in the midst of art galleries, theatres, restaurants, and a dramatic five story Foucault Pendulum and Clock in the central library.

Bank One Plaza and the Kentucky Theater. This Main Street park is a favorite outdoor spot for a picnic lunch from the various nearby restaurants. Across the street is Lexington’s historic

Kentucky Theater, a 1922 ornate movie house restored as a favorite venue for live performances and movies.

Thoroughbred Park. A linear fountain anchors elegant stone work and superbly rendered bronze sculptures of racing thoroughbreds. A rose garden awaits the winner.

Charles Young Park and Goodloetown. Here the Trail will link to another of Lexington’s historic African-American settlements and to one of the city’s older neighborhood parks, named after an African-American veteran of WWI.


How can Town Branch Trail benefit our community?Download TBT 4-page Guide (1.6 Megabyte PDF)

TEA-21 NEWS

• TEA-21 NEWS: Town Branch Trail has received two TEA-21 grants thus far for a total of $450,000 in trail funding. These initial grants will fund the first 2 miles of Trail, connecting Masterson Station Park with Alexandria Dr. Developer Dennis Anderson has donated over $800,000 worth of land for this first 2 mile section.

Signs of Civic Life: Trail Work, Arts Meeting Speak Well of Public Involvement

Lexington Herald-Leader Publication


SIGNS OF CIVIC LIFE TRAIL WORK, ARTS MEETING SPEAK WELL OF PUBLIC INVOLVEMENTPublished: Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Section: Commentary
Page: A8
Author: Editorial Board

A foot trail and footlights hold different sorts of appeal. But two volunteer movements: one working to build a creek-side trail along Town Branch, the other giving voice to Lexington’s artists — have some connections worth noting.

Both are signs of vitality in Lexington’s civic life.

Both are examples of visionary thinking by ordinary citizens.

And both have the potential to enhance the quality of life in our city and region for years to come.

Although both also are funded with a sprinkling of grant money, the energy and imaginations of their unpaid backers are what’s propelling them.

On a recent Friday night, about 40 friends of Town Branch Trail gathered at McConnell Springs for an annual meeting.

Their idea — to restore the badly polluted creek to a central role in Lexington’s life — will take years, even decades, of hard work to accomplish.

But the effort is making headway. Town Branch Trail Inc. has been incorporated as a non-profit organization and has a spot on the Internet at www.townbranch.org.

Thanks to developer Dennis Anderson and a $100,000 grant from the state, the first link, beginning at the trail’s Masterson Station Park terminus, is in the works. It will provide 24 acres of interconnected parkland, greenways, and hiking and biking trails.

Water quality also will get a boost in the near future when an old city-owned dump is capped and stops leeching into the creek.

Thanks are due to the small band of talented volunteers and city planners and engineers who are pushing this project, which deserves additional support from local, state and federal governments.

Someday Town Branch Trail could be the premier link in a citywide network of paths and greenways, tying Lexington’s past to its future and making the city a more desirable place to live and work.

Also worthy of support is a Dec. 8 town meeting put together by a group of Lexington artists.

The organizers are seeking a broad discussion by artists and patrons. They want to talk about how the city can better serve the arts. They also want to talk about how the arts can better serve the city, especially by creating a cultural climate attractive to new-economyentrepreneurs.

“Envisioning the Future: a Town Meeting for the Arts in the Bluegrass” will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Carnegie Center for the Literacy and Learning, 251 West Second Street.

The public is invited. It’s a great chance to help shape the future of Lexington from the grass roots up.


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