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City seeks public input on parks usage

More walking and biking trails and additional land dedicated to equestrian activities were among suggestions received at a public comment meeting Monday night to help the Lexington's parks department develop a master plan with goals for the next 10 years.

As biking grows in popularity, several people said, they would like to see more off-road pathways for commuting and recreational riding. Ideally, city parks could be linked by a series of greenways for longer rides.

About 40 people attended a meeting at Picadome Golf Course moderated by Chris Camp, president of Lose & Associates of Nashville, a recreation planning and design firm. The company was hired by the Division of Parks and Recreation to develop a new master plan that will guide setting up new programs.

“Young people don't play the same way they did 10 years ago,” said Jerry Hancock, director of parks, told the audience. Part of a master plan is assessing current activities and what needs to change.

“We want to know what programs we aren't offering that we need to,” Hancock said. “Where are parks that aren't used well? Are our programs reaching all socioeconomic and ethnic groups?”

Bob Bain, who rides horses at Masterson Station Park with his daughter, asked about a rumor that because of intensive use of Masterson for other sports, equestrian facilities were slated to be cut back.

“The equestrian facility there is an absolute jewel,” Bain said. “Lexington is the horse capital of the United States. It's our brand.” Riding opportunities should be increased, if anything, not cut back, he said.

Hancock quickly addressed the rumor, saying there are not plans to move Masterson's equestrian program or reduce its scope. In fact, a new $250,000 tack barn will soon be built that will allow the program to grow, he said.

Hancock said Masterson Station is the only place in Fayette County where someone can bring a horse and ride without having to be a member or pay a fee.

Equestrian opportunities could also be included on the Hisle farm property, 225 acres on Briar Hill Road that will be developed as a park. A meeting on Wednesday night will solicit input on recreational activities the public would like to see included there.

Other suggestions at Monday night's meeting included expanding opportunities for disc golf and retaining Meadowbrook Golf Course, the city's only 18-hole, par-3 golf course, ideal for beginners and seniors. Others spoke in favor of keeping the Picadome swimming pool open and developing a field where lacrosse players can practice in early spring when most playing fields are sopping wet.

Peggy Henson, 11th district councilwoman, asked that the parks department remain mindful of poor children and find money for summer programs as it did this summer at Valley Park. “Kids need something to do,” Henson said.

Janet Cowen, president of Friends of the Dog Park, said she hoped that every new park sets aside space for people and their dogs. Her group has raised more than $50,000 to create fenced areas at four parks, Jacobson, Masterson, Coldstream and Wellington Way, “and we're still working,” Cowen said.

Camp said he expects a preliminary draft to be completed in November.