Author Archives: Van Meter Pettit


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

Continue reading


A consortium of water utilities in the Bluegrass arrived at a solution to our longterm water needs. After weighing a number of options, the group agreed that the primary new source of water for Lexington will come from the Kentucky River near Frankfort. This location is DOWNSTREAM from the Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek Watershed (i.e. Downtown Lexington). That means that we will be using water than has been affected by our own polluted runoff. It has never been more important to clean up our historic urban creek than NOW. It will soon become the water we draw from our faucets. Kentucky American Water’s proposal before the PSC to built a new water treatment plant is following through on this regional strategic plan. It is imperative that we raise our standard of stewardship for Lexington’s urban watershed for the sake of our own drinking water.

Founding of Lexington along the Elkhorn Creek

Lexington, Kentucky was founded in the summer of1775 at the dawn of the American Revolution. A small band of frontiersmen gathered around a fire received word that a rabble of colonists had defeated British troops in a skirmish at Lexington, Massachusetts. To commemorate this exciting news, they decided to name the lush spring-fed wilderness in which they camped in the battle’s honor. Pioneers traveling south from the Ohio River or west through the Cumberland Gap traced their way to Lexington along buffalo trails over rolling savannah and by way of meandering forested waterways.

John Filson, biographer of Daniel Boone, shows us in a map from 1784 what pioneer Kentucky looked like.

In “Song of Myself” Walt Whitman imagines one of these early frontiersmen,

“A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in deer-skin leggings”

These pioneers chose to set down roots in Lexington along the banks of the Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek because of the rich fertile soil and multitude of artesian springs running the year round. Within a few short years a collection of log cabins clustered around a stockade gave way to a burgeoning town laid out along a generous creek-side commons. The valuable exports of bourbon, tobacco, and pedigreed cattle soon made Lexington the hub of a prosperous Bluegrass Region, and the capital of America’s first frontier. Within two generations of its founding Lexington had become a town of great wealth, sophistication, and refinement. By the time the Marquis de Lafayette came to visit his namesake county in 1825, Lexington had become known as the “Athens of the West” for its free public library, a university which boasted schools of medicine and law, and for architecture as refined as any in Philadelphia or Boston. And a young Lexington lawyer by the name of Henry Clay held our nation’s Congress in his thrall.

By 1830 Lexington had one of the first railroad charters in the nation.

Lexington also became fertile ground for religion, forming many of the first congregations west of the Appalachians. A pair of vibrant African-American congregations trace their common history back to 1790. The place names of Mt. Tabor, Mt. Horeb, Pisgah, and Zion hark back to this era of great awakening.

Other place names around Lexington honor the revolution and early republic. Fayette County was named in 1780 in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette and downtown streets bear names like Madison, Jefferson, and Constitution in honor of our nation’s founding.

By the time of the Civil War, despite Lexington’s wealth, its national ascendancy had long been eclipsed by more westward river cities along the Ohio and the Mississippi and its lack of navigable waters consigned it to a more modest agrarian splendor. But to this day Lexington has carefully protected its precious farmland with an urban growth boundary and with a nationally acclaimed program for farmland protection.

Lexington is even rediscovering its roots along the Town Branch of the Elkhorn Creek, setting up a public greenway that will follow this historic waterway from the city out to pioneers houses, springs, and Bluegrass countryside.

Bourbon History along the Town Branch of the Elkhorn Creek, Lexington, Kentucky

Bourbon has a long and rich history in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. The distilling of whiskey began about as early as settlers arrived here from the north and east. The reason this area was so conducive to the making of whiskey was on account of the numerous limestone springs in the area that could provide cool clear water all year long. The importance of good water to the area’s distilleries cannot be overstated. One of the unique ingredients of Kentucky bourbon is the water that comes up from its limestone springs. The water that comes out of the springs has been filtered of impurities and unwanted minerals, such as iron. In addition, the spring water is rich in calcium. The calcium in the water reacts favorably with the yeast during the production of whiskey.

Though there are no distilleries any longer in use in Fayette County, some of the earliest of our Bourbon History took place along the Town Branch of the Elkhorn Creek in Lexington.

Elijah Culpepper, came from Culpepper County, Virginia to Kentucky when it was still a county of Virginia. Legend has it that some time around 1776, Elijah Culpepper settled at what came to be known as the “Old Pepper Spring” near Lexington on the Frankfort Pike. There he is said to have built a log cabin distillery about 1780. The story goes that Elijah Culpepper, finding his name “too long and too troublesome to write,” dropped the “Cul” and became Elijah Pepper.

Elijah Pepper’s son, Oscar Pepper, operated several distilleries in Kentucky including the current Labrot and Graham’s Old Oscar Pepper Distillery and another in Versailles. He hired James C. Crow as his master distiller. James Crow is known for using his knowledge of biochemistry to introduce scientific principles into the distilling process. Together the two men brought fame to the Old Crow and Old Pepper brands. Their whiskey became a big hit with men such as Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, John Calhoun, Ulysess S. Grant, William Henry Harrison, and Daniel Webster. Labrot and Graham’s Old Oscar Pepper Distillery is named for Oscar Pepper.

Austin Texas: Demographics and Trail System

Commerce Lexington will be going to Austin, Texas this year to see what we can learn from a successful university town of comparable scale and geography. The following case study material was prepared in 2001. Certain figures are not in 2008 dollars and undoubtedly the city has grown.

• Founded in 1838
• Population: 1,126,700 people in the metropolitan area. 632,833 in Austin city limits (Lexington population = 260,512)
• Austin is the second fastest growing city in the United States
• The 21st largest city in the country
• Area: 2,705 square miles in metro areas. 232 square miles within the city limits
• Time Zone: Central Time
• Sales Tax: 8.25 percent
• Location: Austin is 236 miles from the Mexican border. Within 200 miles of San Antonio, Houston and Dallas
• Austin ranked as “Best Place for Business” (Forbes, May 2000) More than 1,330 tech companies.
• Fourth most visited city in Texas, with more than 16 million annual visitors.
• Austin is a clean-air city. Smoking is prohibited in buildings open to public.
• Live Music Capital of the World with more than 100 live music venues
• Austin has 11,800 acres of greenbelt used for recreation18 miles of well-surfaced scenic paths
7.5 miles of natural surface trails
• several more miles of connected trails are planned

Current population of Travis County: 812,280 (Lexington 260,000)

Travis County population in 1960: 212,136 (Lexington 132,000)


Median age: 29.5 years (Lexington 33 years)

Household income: $42,250 (Lexington $39,813)

Bachelor’s degree 33.9 (Lexington 35.6%)