Fayette County

Future ‘centerpiece of the community’ gets another big donation

A 10-acre park planned for the heart of downtown Lexington has received a $500,000 donation, nudging the project closer toward its proposed budget of $30 million.

The half-a-million donation came from the William Stamps Farish Fund. Farish, the owner of Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, is hopeful for the park’s opportunity to transform the downtown area.

“Town Branch Park will accelerate the amazing renewal that has taken place to our downtown, which has experienced dramatic change and made our city a much more desirable place to live and work,” Farish said in a press release. “The chance to have a major park as a centerpiece to our community is an impossible thing to let pass.”

The multi-million dollar Town Branch Park project is several years in the making.

In 2013, New York-based design firm SCAPE was approved to work up the designs for Town Branch Park and an accompanying trail. Part of those designs were unveiled in March 2017 and included a nearly 3-mile urban trail with separate bike lanes and ample greenery, as well as a connector with Legacy Trail.

Designs for Town Branch Park place the 10-acre space adjacent to Rupp Arena in the parking lot on Manchester Street. The park will be funded and maintained entirely through donations and grants procured by the nonprofit Town Branch Fund.

Of the $30 million park budget, $9 million has been raised, according to Town Branch Fund Executive director Allison Lankford.

Previous donors include Picnic with Pops, an annual outdoor concert program. The organization, which started its summer shows in the 1980s, has searched for a permanent outdoor venue for decades. The Town Branch Park — plans for which include a 5,000-person amphitheater — may be the solution to that search.

The project also received a federal arts grant of $45,000 earlier this year.

These funds will facilitate the building of several planned amenities, including interactive waterways, art installations, trails, a dog park and children’s play area.

Lankford said that the Town Branch Park’s timeline is tentative. Organizers hope to break ground by the end of 2022 or beginning of 2023 — but the official start date will depend on the success of fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile, preparatory construction for a portion of the downtown section of the Town Branch Trail is projected to begin late 2019, according to Brandi Peacher, a project manager for the city. Peacher said the exact date that construction will commence is under discussion as the city finalizes its permits for the project. The section that will likely be built first includes Vine and Main streets.

The city hopes to bid the trail construction project this fall.