Sold-out show protests proposed Nicholasville-to-Madison County connector road

gkocher1@herald-leader.comSeptember 19, 2013 

A grass-roots group that bills itself as 'the Disconnectors" demonstrated Thursday night that its members know how to bring people together.

More than 500 people who paid $10 to $15 a ticket packed a sold-out show at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Center in Lexington to protest a proposed connector road that would stretch from Nicholasville over the Kentucky River to Interstate 75 in Madison County.

Proponents call it the "connector road" for short. But opponents, including Liz Hobson, who lives near Spears in southeastern Jessamine County, call it the "vampire road," because it keeps rising up for public debate.

"We have found no studies that really document the need for the road or to explain who really benefits from it," Hobson said.

Among the evening's speakers was Nicholas County native Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible and other best-selling books. Nature and biology are frequently topics of her essays or provide context for her fiction.

"It's interesting, isn't it, that when you have a rally to stop a road from wrecking a beautiful place, the artists come out of the woodwork?" Kingsolver asked. "I was thinking, if you had a rally to support a road that wrecked a beautiful place, I bet you wouldn't get one single poet to show up.

"I think artists are not efficiency experts," Kingsolver said. "We are advocates of the beautiful daydream. Part of our job, I think, is to remind ourselves and each other that the shortest distance between two points might not be a straight line. It might be a circle. Or it might be just standing still until you figure out that you're already where you need to be."

Wendell Berry, who has spent a lifetime writing about rural community, read a fanciful account of the "Buzzard General Assembly." The buzzards, he said, "unanimously concluded and instructed me to tell you that they foreswear all rights and claims to the carrion, with the giblets and gravy thereof, that would be produced by said connector."

Hobson said the Disconnectors' effort has expanded "our understanding of what a community means in ways we could never have foreseen." For example, "Our new friends include environmental groups, botanists, farm advocates, homeowners associations, history buffs, cyclists, financial conservatives, and individuals who question the unsubstantiated claims made by our elected officials," Hobson said.

Consultants for the state Transportation Cabinet displayed maps and diagrams before the show and answered questions.

"We had planned to attend just to see what it was about and to listen to all points of view," said Jerry Leslie, vice president of H.W. Lochner, the engineering firm selected to do the design work for the connector road.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader.

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