Category Archives: News

Town Branch cloud

Herald Leader, Posted on Sat, Apr. 26, 2003

Why city tolerates an open sewer is real mystery

In what has become a rite of spring, the milky mystery cloud reappeared recently on Town Branch, signaling yet again that Lexington has turned this historic waterway into an open sewer.
Best guess, based on the titanium dioxide traces in the earlier slugs, is that the pollutant is latex paint.
City environmental engineer David Gabbard speculates that someone is cleaning paint buckets and brushes in an old mop sink or drain that was illegally connected to the storm sewers, probably years ago.
But illegal storm sewer connections are not the only way that raw sewage enters Town Branch.
The sanitary sewers also overflow into the creek. The main suspect is an overloaded underground system that serves the University of Kentucky, Ashland Park and Chevy Chase.
The overflows are a remnant of when municipal drainage systems were engineered to dump untreated sewage into storm sewers and streams during rains to prevent backups in houses.
Sewage overflows were installed along the 3-mile line in 1963. The sewer overflows and storm water go into an underground creek, buried about 100 years ago, that empties into Town Branch at Manchester Street.
Nowadays, heavy rain may not be required for the sewers to overflow. High fecal counts have been measured in Town Branch after dry spells. The city’s planning, environmental management and sanitary sewer divisions are investigating to pinpoint the problem’s sources and solutions.
Whatever the causes, the pollution of Town Branch with raw sewage is gross. It’s no less disgusting than the reviled mountain straight pipes. It’s also a violation of the Clean Water Act. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlawed intentional sewer overflows in the 1980s.
Ending the sewage spills is on the city’s three-year, $23 million sewer improvement plan. But this upgrade is last on the list, behind projects that would relieve sewage backups in basements, yards and parks.
It’s hard to believe that in 2003 Lexington tolerates an open sewer just west of downtown. But the proof is there, in the mystery cloud that appears each spring to remind us of our environmental sins.

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.

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

Building a Walkable Community

The Walkable Communities, Inc. website ( has a list of several qualities that walkable communities have. Why should we be concerned if our community is walkable? Because communities which foster walking are healthier, develop stronger social ties, reduce certain infrastructure costs, and offer a higher quality of living. Quality of living is one of the leading indicators for economic development as well.

Among the qualities of a walkable community which Town Branch Trail is helping to develop are:
* intact town centers
* developments with residential densities, mixed income, mixed use.
* public space
* universal design
* connections of streets and trails
* many people walking
* visionary and forward thinking

The vision for Town Branch Trail includes revitalizing older neighborhoods and commercial areas along the proposed trajectory of the trail, encouraging adaptive reuse of older buildings and a mix of development types including office, retail, live-work, residential and neighborhood support services. Residents of these areas could use the trail to commute into the center of downtown, and also have access to daily needs within easy walking distance. Discussions about activities and businesses which would surround a major trail head where the creek emerges from the ground near Rupp Arena have generated some exciting ideas that will contribute to a vibrant downtown.

The trail is designed to be accessible to people in wheelchairs and using walkers, as well as those who run and bike. Parents with children in strollers also benefit from such “universal” design. Details such as shade and benches will add to the comfort of all people using the trail.

Town Branch Trail will connect to other trails and bikeways, and to major roadways such as Broadway, Main and Vine Streets, Forbes Road, Alexandria Drive and the future Newtown Pike extension. The Newtown Pike extension’s bike lane will connect Town Branch Trail to the UK campus. The trail also links two major public green areas, McConnell Springs and Masterson Station Park. When Town Branch Trail is completed, Rupp Arena and Convention Center events will be more accessible without driving.

The location and linkages of Town Branch mean that it will be well used; creating a safe, pleasant and interesting facility. Workers from various downtown businesses will mingle with convention goers and tourists, as school kids ride bikes or elderly neighbors go for a gentle stroll. Use will occur during normal business hours, after work and on weekends, bringing energy to many areas near downtown and beyond.

Walkable Communities Inc., 320 S. Main St, High Springs, FL 32643 (386) 454-3304


• 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

From the Op-Ed pages
Published Tuesday, November 27, 2001, in the Herald-Leader

Trail work, arts meeting speak well of public involvement

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 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-economy entrepreneurs.

“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.