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.

Promoting Physical Activity Through Trails

CDC trails and health
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Trails have been built and maintained in this country mainly for reasons related to transportation and recreation. Rarely, however, have people asked how important are trails to our health and whether trails should be a resource accessible to multiple-types of recreation users?
There is strong scientific evidence that regular physical activity promotes health and reduces risk of premature death and many chronic diseases. It is recommended that adults obtain a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity (e.g., brisk walking) on most, if not all, days of the week.
Indeed, there is now scientific evidence that providing access to places for physical activity increases the level of physical activity in a community.1 The Task Force on Community Preventive Services strongly recommends creating or enhancing access to trails and other places for physical activity. However, just building trails is not enough, the Task Force highlighted that communication strategies and outreach activities that promote using trails and facilities are also recommended. A typical study of an intervention to create or enhance access to places for physical activity reports a 25% increase in physical activity levels.2

The health benefits of using trails are significant

* Regular physical activity is a key component of any weight loss effort.3 Greater access to trails can directly impact our nation’s obesity epidemic by improving access to places for physical activity and opportunities.

* Participating in aerobic training significantly reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure.4 Trails provide the opportunity for individuals to help control their hypertension (high blood pressure).

* Moderate physical activity such as walking and cycling on trails can protect against developing non-insulin dependent diabetes.5

* Through aerobic exercise training, walking and cycling on trails can improve symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression and anxiety of a magnitude comparable to that obtained with some pharmacological agent.6

* Studies have reported that walking two or more miles a day reduces the chance of premature death by 50%.7

Trails Reach the Whole Community

Many commonly recognized activities related to physical activity exclude large segments of the community. For example: organized team sports may favor athletically gifted individuals and families with sufficient financial means; fitness centers may favor individuals who have high self-determination and fitness ability; youth recreational programs may favor young children. Trails however, represent a diversity of opportunity from the gifted athlete interested in a convenient place to train to the individuals who are looking for an aesthetically pleasing place to take an after dinner walk to a family walking to spend time together.

Many Users—Many Uses

Trails are a medium that offers many opportunities for physical activity:

* Walking the dog
* Walking as break from work
* Walking to a scenic outlook
* Walking as a break from driving
* Rollerblade/inline skating
* Jogging & Running
* Wheelchair accessible recreation
* Bicycling
* Cross County Skiing and Snowshoeing
* Fishing and hunting
* Horseback riding
* Landscaping and trail maintenance
* Bird watching
* Playing with children
* Strolling with infants and toddlers
* Spending time with friends & relatives
* Your ideas here. . .


American Hiking Society’s “Hikers Info Center”*
The National Park Service; Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program
Promoting Physical Activity Through Recreation In America’s Great Outdoors
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy*
Trails and Greenways Clearinghouse*
CDC’s Brochure, Trails for Health: Promoting Healthy Lifestyles & Environments (PDF – 95.5K)
This is also available as a text-only 508-accessible version (PDF – 86.3K).

Related Information
National Partnership Promotes Health and Recreation

For more information about this contact
Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity,
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention
and Health Promotion,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4770 Buford Highway, NE, MS/K-24
Atlanta, GA 30341-3717
Telephone (770) 488-5820
Fax (770) 488-5473


1. Creating or Improving Access to Places for Physical Activity is Strongly Recommended to Increase Physical Activity. The Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Available: [on-line]*

2. Ibid

3. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease and Health Promotion. Promoting Physical Activity: A Guide for Community Action.

4. Y.A. Kesaniemi, E. Danforth, M.D. Jensen , P.G. Kopelman, P. Lefebvre, B.R. Reeder. Dose-response issues concerning physical activity and health: an evidence-based symposium. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 33(6):S352-S358.

5. Knowler WC, Barrett-Connor E, Fowler SE, Hamman RF, Lachin JM, Walker EA, Nathan DM; Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. N Engl J Med 2002 Feb 7;346(6):393-403.

6. Ibid

7. Hakim, A.A., H. Petrovitch, C.M. Burchfiel, et al. Effects of walking on mortality among non-smoking retired men. N. Eng. J. Med. 338:94-99, 1998.

This page last updated March 04, 2004
United States Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity

Miscellaneous Trail Facts

“There are currently over1,212 trails for 12,585 miles of greenway trail in the U.S.”

Rails to Trails Conservancy, Trail facts

“A greenbelt (trail) in Boulder, Colorado increased aggregate property values for one neighborhood by $5.4 million, resulting in $500,000 of additional annual property tax revenues. The tax alone could recover the initial cost of the $1-5 million greenbelt in three years.”

Economic Impacts of Protecting Rivers, Trails, and Greenway Corridors – National Park Service, 1990.

“Trail users spend money. Such expenditures may range from snacks or drinks to bicycle repair or purchase to overnight stays. Communities that serve as trailheads are poised to take advantage of this economic inflow. A study for the National Park Service undertaken in 1992 estimated that trail users spend between $4 and $11 per day, depending on trail location and spending opportunities. This can equate to between $1.2 and $1.8 million for one trail for one year.”

Iowa Trails 2000, Iowa Department of Transportation

“According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “approximately 300,000 U.S. deaths a year are associated with obesity and overweight (compared with 400,000 deaths a year associated with cigarette smoking). The total direct and indirect costs attributed to overweight and obesity amounted to $117 billion in the year 2000.” The alarming national statistics point to a growing health crisis that impacts Americans of all ages. The Surgeon General recommends moderate physical activity — 30 minutes a day, five days a week — to combat the threat of diseases including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer and depression.”

Rails to Trails Conservancy, health benefits of trails

Another Story linking Health, Lifestyle, and Bad Urban Planning

The way cities and suburbs are developed could be bad for your health
By Martha T. Moore

Why don’t Americans walk anywhere?
Old answer: They’re lazy.
New answer: They can’t.

There is no sidewalk outside the front door, school is 5 miles away, and there’s a six-lane highway between home and the supermarket.

Many experts on public health say the way neighborhoods are built is to blame for Americans’ physical inactivity — and the resulting epidemic of obesity.

The health concern is a new slant on the issue of suburban sprawl, which metro regions have been struggling with for a decade. These health experts bring the deep-pocketed force of private foundations and public agencies into discussions about what neighborhoods should look like.

The argument over whether suburbs are bad for your health will hit many
Americans precisely where they live: in a house with a big lawn on a cul-de-sac.

”The potential for actually tackling some of these things, with the savvy of the folks who have tackled tobacco, is enormous,” says Ellen Vanderslice, head of America Walks, a pedestrian advocacy group based in Portland, Ore.

A study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking 8,000 residents of Atlanta to determine whether the neighborhood they live in influences their level of physical exercise.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in New Jersey, the country’s largest health care philanthropy, is spending $70 million over five years on studies and programs to make it easier for people to walk in suburbs, cities and towns. ”We want to engineer routine activity back into people’s daily lives,” says Kate Kraft, the foundation’s senior program officer. ”That means we need to start creating more walkable, bikeable communities.”

For decades, cities, towns and suburbs have been developed on the assumption that every trip will be made by car. That has all but eliminated walking from daily life for people in most parts of the country. Americans make fewer than 6% of their daily trips on foot, according to studies by the Federal Highway Administration.

Three-quarters of short trips, a mile or less, are made by car, federal studies show.

Children don’t get much more of a workout. Fewer than 13% of students walk to school. That’s partly because regulations for school construction effectively encourage building schools on large sites at the edge of communities, beyond walking distance for most students, according to a National Trust for Historic Preservation report.

Federal health statistics show that nearly 65% of Americans are overweight and that 31% are obese, or more than 30 pounds over a healthy weight. A big part of the cause is all that driving and not enough walking.

”Obesity is not just (that) we’re eating more. We’re getting less activity. People just don’t walk that much,” says Tom Schmid, head of the CDC’s Active Community Environments program.

Why you can’t walk there from here:

* Spread-out neighborhoods. Bigger houses on bigger lots mean neighborhoods stretch beyond walking distance for doing errands.

* Zoning. Residential neighborhoods are far from jobs and shopping centers, even schools.

* Reign of cars. Roads are built big and busy. Intersections and crosswalks are rare. Shopping centers and office parks are set in the middle of big parking lots, all of which have become dangerous places to walk. In many cul-de-sac suburbs and along shopping strips, sidewalks don’t exist.

Suddenly, the crowded city looks healthy.

In old, densely built cities such as New York and Boston, people walk.
It’s not necessarily for exercise, but simply to get from one place to another. College towns and cities with military bases also have high rates of walking, Census data show. Houses and workplaces are near each other. If people don’t walk to work, they often walk to public transit.

In November, Oakland became one of a few large cities to pass a pedestrian master plan. The city already has a walking-friendly design because it was laid out at the turn of the 20th century along streetcar lines. Nevertheless, city officials want to make sure that people can walk to a new rapid-transit bus system. That will mean spending money to upgrade sidewalks and intersections near the transit stops.

”It’s back to the future. We’re going to have this transportation system where you don’t need to drive,” says Tom Van Demark, director of
Oakland’s pedestrian safety project.

In newer cities, especially those in the Sun Belt where growth has boomed since 1950, walking anywhere is not easy. Families wanted more space for their children, so they moved to single-family houses with yards in big residential neighborhoods. Jobs and services, like shopping, followed people to the suburbs, away from the downtown that could easily be served by public transit.

Hopping into SUVs

Even in places designed to be walkable, things have changed. Victoria
Talkington, a lawyer and mother of two children, lives north of San Francisco in Mill Valley, on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. A network of paths and steps connects roads that switch back along the mountainside.
The footpaths lead from downtown into elevated residential neighborhoods.

But in the hundred years since the paths were laid out, they had fallen into disuse. Instead, people drive down the roads.

”People with SUVs and kids have moved in, and they’ve displaced people who knew about the paths,” says Talkington, a planning commission member.

Near her house is a path with a great view of the mountain. ”Nobody who lived within a hundred yards of it knew about it,” she says. So she took a pruner and cleared the overgrown path last fall.

Now, people occasionally use it.

Steven Gayle, director of the transportation system in Binghamton,
N.Y., is running seminars on pedestrian improvements, paid for by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. ”What we really need to do is redesign our communities so that people walk as a matter of course, the way they used to do,” Gayle says. ”Hopping in your SUV to drive to the park to walk on the trail for 20 minutes and hopping in the car to drive home is not what we need to see.”

Public health advocates are well-funded allies for advocates of ”smart growth,” who criticize suburban sprawl and development. They have been arguing for a decade that communities should be walkable. Neighborhoods should be built with shorter blocks, smaller yards and streets that connect to each other rather than dead-end. Stores and offices should be close to or mixed with residential neighborhoods, they say.

The Urban Land Institute, a group for developers and planners, estimates that 5% to 15% of new development follows the principles of ”walkable” neighborhoods. Nearly 1.6 million homes were built in 2001.

”There’s a big awareness of the issue in the planning community, that
walkable places are nicer and sometimes are more economically viable,” says Reid Ewing, a Rutgers University professor and author of an upcoming study on sprawl and health. ”The question is, are they healthier? That’s really the new wrinkle.”

To find the answer, the CDC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are funding studies such as the one in Atlanta. The public health experts want to find out what kind of neighborhood designs and amenities have a statistically significant link to increased walking.

Some metro areas are taking steps to make their cities pedestrian-friendly, either by upgrading neighborhoods with sidewalks and crosswalks or changing the rules for building developments.

Lots of people walk in Rochester, N.Y. And enough people commute by bicycle that city buses are equipped with bike racks. But ”the suburbs are built without sidewalks and without adequate shoulders on the roads,” says Bill Nojay, chairman of the regional transportation authority.

Last year, the region spent $5 million to upgrade walking and biking trails that connect the 19 towns in the county surrounding Rochester.

‘Shocked into it’

Fewer people walk to work in Atlanta and Charlotte than in any other large metro areas, according to Census data. But both cities are trying to make walking easier. They want to focus development around public transit and spend money on sidewalks.

In Atlanta, poor air quality from traffic congestion forced the issue.
The region could not spend federal transportation funds on new highways until it came up with a plan to improve air quality.

”The only projects we could build were the small projects geared toward the pedestrian,” says Tom Weyandt of the Atlanta Regional
Commission, the metro area’s planning agency. ”So in a sense, we were sort of shocked into it.”

The region is spending $175 million to build 385 miles of sidewalks by

That’s a small slice of the region’s 16,000 miles of roads and highways. But $350 million more over 10 years will go to transportation projects tied to the development of higher-density, mixed-use areas.
Those will be mostly pedestrian improvements, Weyandt says.

In Charlotte, fewer people walk to work than any other metro area of more than 1 million people. The city also made the top 10 ”fattest cities” list in the February issue of Men’s Fitness magazine.

But a master plan adopted by the city in 1998 calls for development to be clustered along light-rail and rapid-bus lines to encourage people to walk to public transit. The city now requires new subdivisions to have sidewalks and few cul-de-sacs. Also, the city is hiring a ”pedestrian coordinator” to work with developers.

Voters approved a $10 million bond issue in November to build sidewalks in places that never had them. Less than half of Charlotte’s 2,800 miles of streets have sidewalks on one or both sides.

Most of the motivation for these changes has been to cut down on traffic and pollution.

”The community health aspect of it is one that’s just emerging as a topic,” says Danny Pleasant, deputy director of transportation for Charlotte.

Public health vs. the good life

Many people, of course, get physical exercise regardless of where they live.

And for good or ill, a suburban house in a bedroom community is to many people the American dream. ”A large part of what some people call sprawl is what other people call affordable housing, jobs, highways that go somewhere and get you there,” says Daniel Fox, president of the
Milbank Memorial Fund, a health policy research foundation based in New York.

Builders of suburban neighborhoods and office parks often view a
walkable development as expensive to construct, hard to get past local planning agencies and difficult to finance, says Clayton Traylor of the
National Association of Home Builders.

Also, the main component of walkable neighborhoods is density, or the number of people per square mile — but density is what many homebuyers are trying to get away from.

”It’s just our own definition of what the good life includes, which is a couple of cars and a house on the cul-de-sac,” says Kraft of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. ”The good life means you can be a couch potato.”

That may mean Americans don’t want to walk regardless of what public health experts urge. ”Population health is what the population says it is,” Fox says.
”Why can’t Americans change their values? Why can’t everyone in Texas, instead of going to high school football games, spend their Friday nights exercising? Well, that’s the way it is, folks.”

Even so, those pushing for walkable developments hope that a public health approach will be more palatable than talking about smart growth and sprawl.
”Too many people just don’t care at all about design or sprawl,” says
Adrienne Schmitz of the Urban Land Institute, based in Washington, D.C.
”But when you start talking health, it’s a real hot button.”