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

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

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

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

PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION WITH A BACHELOR’S DEGREE OR HIGHER
Chattanooga 21.5%
Lexington 35.6%
Lexington’s percentage is 65% greater

TRAILS
Chattanooga:
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.

Lexington:
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:

http://www.chattanooga.gov/cpr/greenways.htm
(This piece was written a few years ago and the totals for Lexington and Chattanooga have undoubtedly increased. We welcome any updated available.)

A GOOD BENCHMARK FOR TRAILS

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.

ENHANCING THE ENVIRONMENT WITH TRAILS AND GREENWAYS

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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WHAT COMES AROUND GOES AROUND

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.