State-contracted mowers turned their machinery upright and whacked back trees and brush along Old Richmond Road late last month, leaving some residents of the area appalled at the appearance of the scenic byway.
Melissa Brown, president of the Boone Creek neighborhood association, which encompasses many areas along Old Richmond Road in southern Fayette County, said everyone she's talked to thinks the area now looks terrible.
"Old Richmond Road is a scenic byway, but not anymore," she said.
Brown's husband, Bill Brown, said the removal was done with heavy-duty mowers in a "helter skelter manner."
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"It looks like somebody slashed and burned without caring what they were doing," he said.
Chuck Wolfe, spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said cutting back trees and brush is something the cabinet does on a regular basis to improve sight distance for drivers.
"It helps to have as much sunlight as possible on the roadway," he said.
The cabinet also wants to keep trees and brush from hanging over the guardrail, said Natasha Lacey, public information officer for the Department of Highways' District 7 office in Lexington.
The project was part of normal roadside maintenance, and the Old Richmond Road area should not see the same type of mowing again for several years, she said.
Tree and brush removal is planned and administered by local highway departments, depending on the area's needs, Wolfe said.
"I don't think we try to leave a mess," he said. "It's not pretty at first, but it will grow back."
Melissa Brown said she's lived in the area for 30 years and has never thought the trees and brush along the road have created safety concerns.
"I'm just not sure what they're trying to accomplish," she said.
Other neighbors are more accepting of the highway mowing.
Mary Diane Hanna, chair of the Old Richmond Road Corridor Coalition, said even though "it kind of hurts my heart" to see the destruction caused by the removal, she sees both sides of the issue.
Hanna said brush and honeysuckle periodically begin to encroach on the roadway, and whenever it gets bad enough, it's necessary for the highway department to get rid of it.
"I don't love it, that's for sure, but I understand why they did it," she said. "If I were out there cleaning up my honeysuckle, they wouldn't have to do it, but I'm not, so they do."
A 6.8-mile portion of Old Richmond Road, also known as U.S. 25, and Grimes Mill Road that stretches from Richmond Road near Jacobson Park to McCalls Mills Road was designated a Kentucky Scenic Byway in October 1999.