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Mining fears hold up Legacy Trail

Plans to build the nine-mile Legacy Trail for cyclists and pedestrians between downtown Lexington and the Kentucky Horse Park have hit a roadblock.

The city's Board of Adjustment failed to approve a land swap between Vulcan Materials Co. and the University of Kentucky that trail organizers say is essential.

Vulcan wants to swap the university some land surface next to UK's farm complex north of I-75 between Newtown and Georgetown roads, in return for the right to mine limestone under some of the university land in the future.

Although Vulcan operates a quarry nearby, there are no immediate plans to mine underground. The surface area UK would get from Vulcan is where the trail would go.

Without that land swap, the Legacy Trail can't be built — at least not before the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, said Steve Austin of the Bluegrass Community Foundation's Legacy Center.

The seven-member Board of Adjustment voted 2-2 on Oct. 31 to reject the land swap, with one member abstaining and two absent. The two board members who voted against it were concerned that underground mining could endanger the Royal Springs Aquifer, the water supply for Georgetown.

Because of the tie vote, the issue will be brought up again at the board's meeting at 1 p.m. Dec. 12 in the council chambers.

But officials charged with protecting the aquifer see no problem with the land swap, so long as they have the right to review and object to any specific plans for underground mining.

"Our biggest concern ... is where they make their entry point" for mining, said Billy Jenkins, general manager of Georgetown Municipal Water and Sewer Service and chairman of the Royal Springs Water Supply Protection Committee. "I told the committee that, with the plans we've seen, we're OK right now, but we don't want to give up our rights."

In fact, Jenkins said, he hopes the Legacy Trail will be built and that some of the educational signs planned for trail side will explain the Royal Springs Aquifer. "We don't get enough information out to the public about their water supply," he said.

Urban County Councilman Jay McChord, one of the Legacy Trail's organizers, is urging citizens who support it to attend the board's Dec. 12 meeting to make their feelings known. "If the board says no, they will have killed the trail," he said.

Meeting of faiths

In what might be the first meeting of its kind in Lexington, every religious leader in town has been invited to a gathering at 11 a.m. Thursday at Second Presbyterian Church on Main Street.

One purpose of the meeting is to discuss creating a clergy communications network that could be ready to respond to a local emergency. Joanne Hale of the Church World Service in Florida will be there to offer disaster-preparedness training.

Beyond that, said the Rev. Christopher Skidmore of the Kentucky Council of Churches, "We're not going into it with any kind of agenda. Whatever the religious leaders want to come out of it will come out of it."

Skidmore said only 40 of the 400 religious leaders who were invited have confirmed they will attend, but he is hoping many more will come. So far, it's a diverse group. "Our first respondents were from the Muslim community," he said.

Time has been set aside for private midday prayers, and the lunch caterer will adhere to kosher and halal dietary requirements.

The meeting was prompted by remarks Mayor Jim Newberry made several months ago to the Downtown Christian Unity Task Force. "He made mention of some of the desires he has for a community that is more united and connected," Skidmore said.

For example, if Lexington were to experience another disaster such as the 2006 crash of Comair Flight 5191, it would be helpful for the city to have a single point of contact to alert the faith community, and for members of the clergy of all faiths to be trained in disaster counseling.

"We are just creating the space in which they can do whatever they wish to do together," Skidmore said. "I think we'll find that we agree on far more than we disagree on."