Plan would create 200 miles of multi-use trails in Scott County

July 15, 2014

legacyGabe Schmuck, 9, left, Nate Schmuck, 5, and their father, Paul Schmuck, rode on the Legacy Trail in Lexington in 2012. Photo by Mark Ashley.

GEORGETOWN — The popular Legacy Trail out of Lexington now stops just short of the Scott County line at the Kentucky Horse Park. But what is now the end of the trail could someday be just the beginning.

Scott County leaders have worked for three years with the regional visioning group Bluegrass Tomorrow and the National Park Service to develop an ambitious plan for Kentucky’s most extensive trails network. Plans call for 200 miles of biking, hiking, horseback riding and waterway trails throughout Scott County.

“Our vision is that this is going to eventually branch out and include the whole region,” said John Simpson, director of Georgetown/Scott County Tourism.

The Bluegrass Bike Hike Horseback Trails Alliance unveiled a draft of the proposed master plan Monday at the monthly meeting of the Georgetown/Scott County Chamber of Commerce.

Alliance leaders hope to finish the plan by the end of the year and begin negotiating property easements, designing trails, raising private money and applying for federal transportation grants.

Some trails would be shared, with bike/pedestrian and horse paths side-by-side, but most would be separate. The plan was developed with help from interested residents during a June 2013 design workshop, and the alliance is eager for more public participation.

At this point, there are no cost estimates, but such a trails network would run well into the millions of dollars. Still, many officials think it would be a great investment.

“This has the potential to have a tremendous impact, economically and socially, on the community,” said Russell Clark, the alliance’s National Park Service representative.

Clark and Rob Rumpke, president of Bluegrass Tomorrow, cited the economic impact that trail systems have had on Damascus, Va., a once-depressed logging town where hikers and mountain bikers now flock to the Appalachian and Virginia Creeper trails; Loveland, Ohio; and Indiana’s Brown County.

The trails alliance has more than a dozen partners, including the cities of Georgetown, Sadieville and Lexington; Scott County Fiscal Court; the state tourism department; the Horse Park; the Kentucky Horse Council; Georgetown College; the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture; the Bluegrass Area Development District; St. Joseph Health System/Kentucky One; and several horseback-riding and cycling groups.

Rumpke said horse trails should be especially popular, given the number of local horse enthusiasts and the tourists who come to Central Kentucky to see horse farms and events.

“We’re the horse capital of the world; why are there so few horseback-riding facilities?” he asked. “This is an opportunity to address that.”

The first step in the plan is to extend the Legacy Trail 6.6 miles from the horse park to Georgetown. Christie Robinson chairs a steering committee that commissioned an engineering feasibility study, which was recently completed. The study estimates the total cost at about $8.3 million, including trailheads, bathrooms and other amenities. It could be built in four phases as money became available.

Georgetown recently awarded the Legacy Trail committee $25,000 as a match to a $100,000 federal grant that it will apply for this fall, Robinson said. That would move the design process forward.

Claude Christensen, mayor of Sadieville, said he sees the trail system as an opportunity to revitalize his town of 303 people at the northern tip of Scott County. Sadieville is applying for “trail town” status with state tourism officials. But it needs trails.

“It’s huge for Sadieville,” Christensen said. “It makes us a destination.”

Simpson, the tourism official, said many Scott County business and government leaders support trails development because they have seen the economic benefit that road cycling enthusiasts have had in the area.

The Bluegrass Cycling Club’s annual Horsey Hundred ride each Memorial Day weekend is based at Georgetown College. This year, more than 2,000 cyclists came from all over North America to ride Central Kentucky’s scenic back roads on marked routes ranging from 25 to 104 miles.

Georgetown hosted a downtown party for the cyclists, who filled Georgetown College’s residence halls and more than half of the 1,100 local motel rooms. A big group from Ontario, Canada, came for an entire week of cycling before the event.

An extensive trail network, along with Central Kentucky’s world-class cycling roads, could make Georgetown a major recreation destination, Simpson said.

“We’re at the starting point of something that could be phenomenal,” he said. “It could bring thousands of tourists to our community and enhance our own quality of life.”


Woodford adventure center expands programs, public profile

August 15, 2012


Mikhail Proctor assisted McKayla Gardner in a vaulting move on Diesel, a Thoroughbred/Clydesdale cross, in the indoor equestrian arena at Adventure Center of the Bluegrass in Woodford County. Photo by Tom Eblen

 

VERSAILLES — For an organization with a 575-acre campus that serves about 12,000 people a year with a wide variety of activities, Life Adventure Center of the Bluegrass is not very well known.

“We call ourselves the best-kept secret in Central Kentucky, and that is probably true,” said Byron Marlowe, one of the program directors. “I grew up in Nicholasville and had never heard of it before I came to work here.”

The non-profit center traces its roots to the Cleveland Home, a Versailles orphanage started in the late 1800s, and Life Adventure Camp, created in Estill County in 1975 to instill confidence and self-esteem in at-risk youth.

The center now has a broad mission statement: It “engages, educates, and empowers our community to build respect, responsibility, and self-esteem through teamwork, communication, and environmental stewardship using hands-on learning in a natural setting.”

The center has started several programs aligned with that mission, and it is trying to raise its public profile, Marlowe said. The center has a new Web site (Lifeadventurecenter.org), is about to hire a new executive director and is expanding its programs.

The center will host its first adventure race, the Bluegrass Challenge, on Aug. 25. Teams of two or three people will race by hiking, canoeing and mountain biking to complete a series of objectives between 9 a.m. and noon. The competition will have male, female, co-ed and family divisions. The entry fee is $50 a person.

“I designed this as the ultimate race I would like to race in,” said staff member Chris McEachron, an avid adventure racer. Each team will get a map and 14 checkpoints to reach and accomplish problem-solving tasks. “We could have 200 teams and none of them could have the same experience.”

For the third year, Life Adventure Center will host what it calls Kentucky’s largest corn maze — 16 miles of paths cut through a six-acre cornfield, where maze designers have used global-positioning satellite technology to create a giant mural visible from the air.

The maze will be open Sept. 14 through Oct. 21. Admission includes hayrides, concerts, a pumpkin patch for little kids, a ropes course and other activities. (More information: Kycornmaze.com)

The center rents its facilities to companies and other groups for retreats, plus conducts activity sessions for school groups, military families and married couples in a series of “Play Date With Your Mate” weekends.

The corn maze and adventure race will help raise money for the center, which benefits from an endowment that covers more than half of programming costs. Other costs are covered by participant fees, grants, rentals and donations.

That allows the organization to offer educational programs to the public at affordable prices, plus provide scholarships for young people who otherwise couldn’t afford these experiences, Marlowe said.

When I visited Life Adventure Center earlier this month, the Carroll County High School girls’ volleyball team was spending an afternoon of team-building on one of the camp’s most popular facilities: a treetop challenge course of cables, a climbing wall and zip lines. Last year, 90 groups with 2,000 people used the challenge course.

Another popular program is equestrian instruction, which includes horseback riding and vaulting for children and adults in indoor and outdoor riding arenas, plus dozens of acres of meadows.

Vaulting — basically gymnastics on horseback — is an old European sport that has gained popularity here since the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, said Kara Musgrave, the equestrian program director.

Other school groups come for environmental education classes, which include wildlife and wildflower areas and a teaching garden.

“Some of the inner-city kids have never been in the woods before,” Marlowe said. “This really captures their imagination.”

There are primitive campsites and cabins, 15 miles of hiking trails, an outdoor picnic pavilion and a new assembly building for year-round indoor activities. The building is one of the first in Woodford County to be designed and built according to high environmentally-friendly LEED standards, Marlowe said.

While the center wants to continue reaching out to all segments of the Central Kentucky community, character-building for children will remain a primary focus.

“A portion of what we do is for the kids who need it and can’t afford it, the at-risk groups,” Marlowe said. “But all kids are at risk for something. All kids have influences that could turn them in a bad direction.”

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