Mayor Jim Gray's recent announcement that he would include the Town Branch Commons as a priority was welcome news to residents and visitors to Lexington for many years to come.
This economic development project would "daylight" and restore Town Branch, now buried under Vine Street and channeled along Manchester Street, into an inviting community asset in the center of Lexington. It gives us an enlightened vision of the right kind of economic development, a vision that works with natural design.
Another announcement by another elected official was an equally enlightened proposal but was virtually unnoticed.
In 2011, Gov. Steve Beshear was asked by the U.S. Department of Interior to nominate two of Kentucky's outdoor experiences for special recognition and one of his selections was the Kentucky River Bluewater Trail.
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Until recently, most streams and rivers in Kentucky were forgotten resources. Until recently, we only paid attention to them during droughts or when they were overflowing during floods. Or when they were on fire, like the Cuyahoga in Cleveland, which helped persuade Congress to enact the Clean Water Act in 1972.
This half-century of neglect is beginning to end around the country and across Kentucky as communities rediscover buried and channeled streams and abandoned waterfronts. Louisville, Owensboro and Northern Kentucky have led the way.
Now is the time for Lexington and Central Kentucky to develop our water resources the right way.
Last week, citizens and elected officials in Central Kentucky took a significant step in that direction. Led by Rob Rumpke of Bluegrass Tomorrow and Russell Clark of the National Park Service, over 50 people began the planning of an expanded trails system, to extend the work done on the Legacy and Town Branch trails in Fayette and Scott counties into Woodford and Franklin counties and on to the Kentucky River and Elkhorn Creek.
Last year, Bluegrass Tomorrow partnered with the Kentucky Riverkeepers to hold the first Kentucky River BLAST at Boonesboro State Park, where over 5,000 people were on the river or on the beach enjoying the river. This year these partners are planning to hold two BLAST events, on June 27 in Frankfort and in Boonesboro on Aug. 1.
The Kentucky River Watershed Watch was formed in 1997 to "reclaim the river." We protect water quality by collecting water-quality data, by understanding our data, by making it available for others and by becoming informed advocates for improving and protecting our water resources.
This work begins this year with our Watershed Protection conference on Feb. 7 at Eastern Kentucky University in the Perkins science building. We are honored to have Gayle Killam, senior staff, River Network, in Portland, Ore., as our guest speaker. She will lead our discussions on understanding our data and on water-quality issues from a national perspective.
Congressman Hal Rogers has led efforts to address water-quality problems in Eastern Kentucky through the PRIDE program, emphasizing personal responsibility. The Kentucky River, Elkhorn Creek and Town Branch are gifts that are to be enjoyed. They are also our responsibility. If we take care of them, they will be our opportunity for a better quality of life.
We need your help to seize this opportunity. Join us at the 18th KRWW Watershed Protection Conference. To find out more and to register, visit us at www.krww.org.