Second Sunday event previews design for Legacy Trail completion

October 7, 2014

2ndSunday 2014 Handout-R1This rendering shows the proposed design for completing the Legacy Trail along Fourth Street between Jefferson and Shropshire streets. One-street parking would be eliminated to create a 10-foot, two-way bicycle land and 10-12 foot lanes for cars and trucks. People can test the concept 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday during the annual Second Sunday event. Photo Provided

 

This year’s Second Sunday event will offer a preview of what planners propose as the design for finishing Lexington’s popular Legacy Trail: a two-way path along Fourth Street separated from automobile traffic.

The free public event is 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, beginning at the corner of West Sixth and Jefferson Streets, at the Bread Box building and Coolivan Park. Festivities will include kids’ activities, but the main event will be bike riding, running, walking and skating on a coned-off lane of the south side of Fourth Street for 1.6 miles between there and the Isaac Murphy Art Garden under construction at East Third Street and Midland Avenue.

Eight miles of the Legacy Trail between the Northside YMCA and the Kentucky Horse Park were finished in 2010. But bringing the trail into town has been more complicated. The city secured $2.4 million in federal transportation funds to finish the trail, but it has taken time to work out all the details of bringing it into town.

Keith Lovan, a city engineer who oversees trail projects, said the cheapest and safest way to extend the trail across the Northside is what is known as a two-way cycle track on the street, separated from car and truck traffic by flexible posts.

To make room for the 10-foot-wide cycle track, on-street parking would be eliminated. Each car lane would still be 12 to 14 feet wide.

Sunday’s ride will extend to Shropshire Street, but Lovan said Elm Tree Lane and Race Streets also are being considered as ways to connect the Legacy Trail along Fourth Street to the art garden trailhead.

A citizens advisory committee of about 30 people has been mulling this design and other Legacy Trail issues. Detailed work will be done this winter and construction is to begin in the spring.

Lovan expects some controversy, because some on-street parking will be lost and because adding the trail will make street entry and exit from some driveways a little more complicated for drivers.

“I expect we’ll start hearing some of that Sunday,” Loven said of the Second Sunday event, when the trail will be marked off with orange cones. “We intend for this to reflect what the cycle track will look like.”

The hardest part of finishing the Legacy Trail, he said, “Will be getting the support to do this. We’ve had a lot of stakeholder meetings already.” Public meetings will be scheduled later this fall, and planners are going door-to-door talking with residents and businesses on affected streets, Lovan said.

The only other Lexington trail that uses this design is the short section of the Legacy Trail on the bridge over New Circle Road. In addition to cost-savings and improved safety, Lovan said, the two-way cycle track design has been shown in other cities to increase bicycle usage.

“These have been introduced across the country with great success,” said Loven, who oversaw design and construction of the rest of the Legacy Trail. “It provides the user a little more security. You don’t feel like you’re riding in traffic. But it’s more of a visual barrier than a protective barrier.”

I have ridden on cycle track in several American and European cities, and it feels safer for both cyclists and automobile drivers, because they are separated from each other.

When this is finished, there will be only one section of the original Legacy Trail left to do: a short connection between Jefferson Street and the YMCA. Lovan said the city has acquired an old rail line for part of that and is negotiating with the Hope Center to complete the connection. He expects that to be done next year.

The Legacy Trail demonstration marks the seventh year Lexington has participated in Second Sunday, a statewide effort to use existing built infrastructure to promote exercise and physical activity. In most communities, that has meant closing a street for a few hours so people can bike, walk, run or skate there.

The University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension Service started Second Sunday and has coordinated activities. The service plans to do several Second Sunday events next year, depending on grant funding, said spokeswoman Diana Doggett.

“We have a community that is willing and interested,” she said. “We just have to nudge that along.”


Here’s my $5 million idea for the mayor; what’s yours?

July 29, 2012

You have until Wednesday to send Mayor Jim Gray your bold idea for improving Lexington.

Gray will choose one idea to submit next month to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, which will give $5 million to the winning city and four $1 million prizes to runners-up to help turn their ideas into reality.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundation wants “a bold idea that can make government work better, solve a serious problem or improve city life.” The idea should be tailored to Lexington, but also be replicable in other cities. It also needs an action plan that can achieve measurable results.

So far, citizens have submitted dozens of ideas through the city’s website, by mail and in “town hall” forums that Gray has conducted via telephone and social media.

So what’s my bold idea for the mayor? Set a goal to make Lexington the nation’s healthiest city through better nutrition and more exercise. The action plan would focus on developing our budding local food economy and making it easier for Lexingtonians to be physically active as part of their daily routines.

This project is perfect for Lexington, because the city has both huge health problems and the basic tools needed to solve them.

Think about it: Long before Men’s Health magazine named Lexington as America’s most sedentary city last year, Kentucky was a national chart-topper for unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, you name it.

On the other hand, Lexington has some of America’s richest soil, and it can grow food as well as horses. There is a lot of farmland, plus other good opportunities for healthy food production, from the indoor aquaponics farm now being built in a former urban bread bakery to suburban backyard gardens.

Lexington already has many smart, creative people working on these issues. They include university researchers, health educators, farmers, food entrepreneurs and non-profit community organizations such as Seedleaf and Food Chain.

As for exercise, Urban County Council members Jay McChord and Doug Martin, architect Van Meter Pettit and many others have become influential promoters of trails, bicycle lanes and better pedestrian infrastructure to make it safer and easier to exercise.

Lexington’s size, educated population, culture, soils, climate and central location make this an ideal place to pioneer new approaches to improving Americans’ health. Think how much progress could be made if a well-publicized city health crusade attracted national attention and other foundation funding?

These are just some of the issues to be explored: How can typical American urban and suburban infrastructure be retrofitted to make it safer for walking and biking? How can locally grown produce and meat be made more affordable? How can local food production be leveraged to create new jobs?

City government’s main role would be to help create infrastructure — everything from bike lanes and pedestrian paths to garden plots on vacant city land and commercial kitchens to help people turn local food into value-added products. With the right infrastructure and support, Lexington’s academics, entrepreneurs, volunteers and non-profit organizations could develop strategies other cities could emulate.

Well, that’s my idea. What’s yours? Send it to the mayor by going to the city’s website (lexingtonky.gov) and filling out an online form. Or mail your idea to: Mayors Challenge, City Hall, 200 E. Main St., Lexington, KY 40507.

Dick Robinson’s Legacy

The last couple of times I saw well-known sports agent Dick Robinson, he was telling me about his dream of extending the popular Legacy Trail from the Kentucky Horse Park to Georgetown. Robinson, 71, was an avid cyclist. He died a year ago Monday as the result of a brain injury suffered in a cycling accident.

Robinson’s widow, Christie, and friends Leslie and Keith Flanders have continued working on the idea, enlisting the support of Scott County property owners and officials.

They have set up an account with the Blue Grass Community Foundation to take donations to fund a feasibility study and are in the process of hiring CDP Engineers of Lexington to conduct it. The six-month study will recommend route options and estimate costs of the three- or four-mile extension so organizers can apply for state, federal and foundation construction grants, Leslie Flanders said.

To raise awareness for the project, there will be a 15-mile ride on the Legacy Trail in Robinson’s memory Monday at 8:30 a.m. at the trailhead on Iron Works Pike across from the horse park campground. Everyone is invited to come out to ride, or just to honor Robinson’s legacy dream.


YMCA has students, mentors Run the Streets

September 20, 2011

Jade Finley started noticing something was wrong about a year ago.

“I was getting a little flabby,” said the sixth-grader at Bryan Station Middle School.

So Jade, 11, started running. The more she ran, the more she liked it, especially after she spent this summer participating in a free YMCA program designed to get kids ages 10 to 18 interested in running for fun and exercise.

“I’ve dropped a whole dress size,” she said. “It makes me feel good. I’m really enjoying it.”

Jade’s mother can tell a difference, too.

“This has really made her blossom,” Tanya Finley said. “She has taken a big interest in running, and she says she’s going to try out for the school track team.”

Jade was one of about 15 young people and almost as many adult mentors who have met outside historic Loudoun House three times a week since July 25 to participate in the YMCA’s Run the Streets program.

After stretching and get- acquainted exercises, participants spend an hour each Monday and Wednesday evening and two hours each Saturday morning doing relays and running games around Castlewood Park, and running through the park and the surrounding North Lexington neighborhood.

Students who attended eight of the first 12 sessions received a team T-shirt and a pair of running shoes, courtesy of the YMCA of Central Kentucky and John’s Run Walk Shop. “They all worked hard to earn those shoes,” said their leader, Elissa Roycraft, sports and program director at the Beaumont Centre Family YMCA.

The kids who stick with the program will get a free entry in the Run for Education, a 10K race Oct. 8 in Midway.

“I’ve definitely noticed a health difference in the kids since we started,” Roycraft said. “They’re able to go a lot farther than what they thought they would be able to do.”

Although one boy admitted that he was there because his mother made him, others I talked with told of experiences similar to Jade.

“I’ve improved quite a bit since I started this,” said Elizabeth Minor, 15, who said Run the Streets helped her make Henry Clay High School’s varsity cross-country team.

“He loves it,” Belinda Stewart said of her son, Baylen, 10, a fifth-grader at Sandersville Elementary School. “He’s been running 5Ks with his daddy all summer.”

One key to the program has been having students run with one another and with the adult mentors, many of whom are avid runners in their spare time, Roycraft said. “Even though running is an individual sport, we try to make it as much about teamwork as possible,” she said.

Carol Russell volunteered to be a mentor because she thinks exercise is important to lifelong health. She didn’t start running until age 47. Now 56, Russell said she recently qualified for the Boston Marathon.

“Childhood obesity is a real problem in Kentucky, as is Type 2 diabetes,” said Russell, who helps organize the Girl Scouts’ Thin Mint Sprint, a 5K race at the Kentucky Horse Park each May.

Russell thinks it is important for adults to help kids get into the habit of lifelong exercise because physical activity isn’t as much a natural part of childhood as it once was.

“When we were kids, we all played outdoors,” she said. “We didn’t have video games.”

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Miss airport Second Sunday? Watch the video

July 26, 2010

Several thousand people came out June 13 for the Second Sunday event at Blue Grass Airport. The almost-finished new runway was opened to bikers, rollerbladers, skateboarders and walkers. It was a great community event to encourage people to get outside and exercise

In case you missed it, organizers commissioned the video below. For more information about other Second Sunday events, go to the website.


First piece of Town Branch Trail opens next weekend

September 5, 2009

Lexington was born and grew up around the Town Branch of South Elkhorn Creek, but over the past century we’ve done our best to pollute it, bury it and forget about it.

Water finds its way, though, even if it sometimes needs help.

Town Branch Trail Inc. has been working for a decade to develop a greenway along the creek west of downtown. The first fruits of those labors will be on display next weekend, when the initial two-mile section of the trail is opened with a benefit concert and bicycle rally.

The Freedom Concert, with music by Cora Lee and the Townies and Fifth on the Floor, is at 8 p.m. Friday at the new Buster’s in the restored Old Tarr Distillery, which backs up to the creek on Manchester Street. Admission is $10, with all proceeds going to the trail project.

The next morning at 8:15, the public is invited to meet at Cheapside for a police-escorted 10-mile bicycle ride out and back on roads to the completed trail section off Leestown Road and Alexandria Drive. There will be a hospitality tent at Lewis Manor, a circa 1800 home beside the trail in Marehaven subdivision.

When I walked the trail last week, people were already using it.

Workers had just installed stone-cutter Richard McAlister’s beautiful sandstone benches and furlong posts made of finely crafted “Kentucky marble” limestone. And there were several new signs along the trail explaining Central Kentucky’s landscape, geology and ecology.

Van Meter Pettit, the Lexington architect who put together the trail project, sees it as more than a place to exercise; it’s a way to learn about Lexington’s history and environment. It’s also a way to rehabilitate and protect the watershed and help deal with runoff and pollution problems that have grown with the city.

“There is a compelling story to why we are the way we are that even many natives don’t understand,” he said. For example: Lexington’s downtown is long and narrow because it was built along Town Branch, which now flows beneath Vine Street.

Town Branch runs along the west side of the finished section of trail, just beyond tracks that were part of Kentucky’s first railroad line.

In one section, the trail goes around a giant, centuries-old tree, surrounded by a stand of native cane. When the first pioneers came here 250 years ago, much of the Bluegrass was covered with cane. Now, it’s hard to find.

“This is about as good a snapshot of authentic Kentucky as you can get,” Pettit said.

On the east side of the trail is Central Kentucky’s modern landscape: several new subdivisions.

Efforts to build trails in established neighborhoods often are met with “not in my backyard” opposition. But these subdivisions are new, and many homeowners are building decks and landscaping their yards to take advantage of trail access.

Indeed, subdivision developer Dennis Anderson was key to the Town Branch Trail’s success. That’s because he realized the trail would not only be an amenity for his development, but would help with drainage and be a financially attractive way to use undevelopable land.

“Without him,” Pettit said, “this trail would have been a nice idea that never would have happened.”

With this section of trail finished, Pettit is now turning his attention to another one-mile section that has funding. The remaining five miles is under feasibility study while trail organizers seek money, easements and rights of way.

So far, Town Branch Trail has received about $2 million in grants and other funding and $1 million worth of donated land, Pettit said.

Plans call for the trail to eventually be at least eight miles long, going from this first finished section to downtown. It will end along Manchester Street near Rupp Arena, where developers of the Distillery District plan to rehabilitate the stream and incorporate the trail into their multi-use project.

Eventually, Pettit would like Town Branch Trail to connect with the nine-mile Legacy Trail being built from downtown to the Kentucky Horse Park, as well as other walking and bike paths.

Even further in the future, there is talk of developing a trail beside the railroad line from Lexington to Versailles and eventually Frankfort.

So come out and see this first piece of Town Branch Trail. You’ll get some exercise, learn about Lexington and see how creative people are harnessing our rich heritage to literally pave the way to a better future.


Second Sunday event grows to 100 counties

September 3, 2009

With Second Sunday a little more than a month away, 100 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have plans to participate.

Each county plans to close a street or highway for a few hours Sunday afternoon, Oct. 11, and invite residents to come out to walk, bike, run or jog — and to think about how regular exercise could make them healthier and happier.

That was the basic idea used to launch Second Sunday last year, when 70 counties were involved. This year, though, many communities have more ambitious plans.

“It’s becoming a platform for all kinds of health-related events,” said Diana Doggett, a county extension agent in Lexington who is coordinating the statewide effort.

Dogget said many counties are planning health fairs, “fastest kid in town” races and even arts events.

Lexington will close a mile-long loop downtown — Main to Mill to Short to Deweese streets — from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Related events include bike polo demonstrations, health screenings and martial arts and yoga classes. A bike valet service will be available for cyclists to check their bikes while participating in other activities.

Jessamine County plans similar events downtown, plus a 6k run between West Jessamine and East Jessamine high schools to memorialize a popular coach and student athlete who recently died, Dogget said.

Elliott County’s events include speeches by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, a cancer survivor, and a local man who lost 140 pounds without surgery. Festivities end with a concert by bluegrass star Don Rigsby.

Allen County citizens are building a two-mile bike and walking trail on property surrounding a Civil War site, Dumont Hill. Second Sunday activities there will include canon ball bowling.

Newport plans to close Monmouth Street between Fifth and 10th streets. Taylor County will include canoeing on the Green River. Franklin, Scott, Green and Adair counties all have big festivals planned around Second Sunday events.

UK’s Cooperative Extension Service is coordinating Second Sunday plans across the state, and some counties haven’t gotten involved because of vacancies in their extension offices, Dogget said. But anyone can step up and organize local events in those counties — and she hopes people will.

But the point of Second Sunday isn’t to get people outside exercising one day each October; it is to inspire them to start a regular exercise habit.

“What we need to do is change people’s lifestyles,” said Jay McChord, a Lexington councilman who helped create Second Sunday.

McChord also wants Second Sunday to attract national attention — and money — to Kentucky’s effort to shed its ranking as one of the nation’s least-healthy states.

He hopes exposure will attract millions in grant and foundation money to build a trail system throughout Kentucky so communities large and small won’t have to close streets for their citizens to have safe places to walk, run or bike.

Dr. Rick Lofgren, a physician at the University of Kentucky Hospital, appeared with McChord, Legacy Trail organizer Steve Austin and UK Agriculture Dean Scott Smith at the Lexington Forum’s monthly meeting Thursday to talk about trails, better health and Second Sunday.

Lofgren said he practiced in academic hospitals in many parts of the country before coming to UK five years ago. He noted that Kentucky ranks high nationally in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, strokes and lung cancer — all of the health problems nobody wants.

“This is the sickest group of patients I’ve ever taken care of,” Lofgren said. “Much of what I see is preventable. It has to do with the lifestyles we have around here.”

Lofgren said regular exercise would help a lot — on Second Sunday, and every other day of the year.


Second Sunday backers rally Tuesday in Frankfort

March 9, 2009

Second Sunday, the effort to get Kentuckians off the couch and exercising in the street, is gearing up this week for a statewide event in October that will be bigger and better than last year.

Second Sunday organizers will rally at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort to promote the effort. House and Senate resolutions supporting Second Sunday will be introduced by en. Katie Stine, a Republican from Southgate,  Rep. Tanya Pullin, a Democrat from South Shore, and Rep. Susan Westrom, a Lexington Democrat.  Gov. Steve Beshear also plans a declaration.

A major street was closed for the afternoon last Oct. 12 in 70 of Kentucky’s 120 counties and more than 12,000 citizens got out to walk, run, bike, rollerskate and participate in other health-related activities and programs. In Lexington, Limestone Street was closed from Third Street to the Avenue of Champions and it was filled by more than 2,000 people, including Mayor Jim Newberry, several Urban County council members and their families.

This year’s statewide event is planned for Oct. 11, although promoters hope to open a major street to pedestrians in some communities more often – ideally, on the second Sunday of every month. Related activites are being organized throughout the year.

The Second Sunday movement began in Bogotá, Colombia, and has been copied by many other cities, including New York. Kentucky’s Second Sunday last year was the nation’s first coordinated statewide event. It is being coordinated by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s extension service, and the statewide coordinator is Diana Doggett of the Fayette County extension office.

Jay McChord, an Urban County Council member and one of the forces behind Second Sunday, sees the event as a low-cost, fun way to get notoriously unhealthy Kentuckians to be more physically active and more involved in their communities.