Fayette County

Extension of Town Branch Trail will be topic of Monday meeting

The next section of Town Branch Trail will take walkers and bikers another mile up the historic creek.

"This is a very beautiful section that shows the creek in a very natural state with mature trees and lots of meanderings," said Van Meter Pettit, president of the non-profit Town Branch Trail Inc.

At a public meeting Monday, attendees will talk about the one-mile addition and a new feasibility study for the trail named for a waterway — the Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek — that once was at the heart of pioneer Lexington. Part of Town Branch now runs under Vine Street.

The new stretch will connect with the 1.8 miles of paved trail that starts at the McConnell's Trace subdivision west of town and ends just short of Alexandria Drive. It will take the trail almost to New Circle Road.

There is a good chance that construction will begin in 2011, but Pettit is hesitant to promise more than that. Town Branch Trail Inc. has the $800,000 in grant money that the construction is likely to cost, but converting that to asphalt is anything but simple.

As planned, the trail would cross some of the oldest parts of Lexington, which are sliced into a crazy quilt pattern of property lines and land uses. Negotiating with all those landowners for rights-of-way had been a difficult, yearslong process.

The first half-mile stretch of the paved walking and biking trail opened in fall 2005. Since then, 1.3 contiguous miles have been added.

Some of the next section would cross private land for which easement agreements have not been signed. There also is a sanitary pump station planned along the route, and that could affect when and where the trail is built, Pettit said.

"I can only hope it will happen in 2011, but I've kind of given up predicting," he said.

Long-term plans call for the trail to extend for eight miles, ending near downtown.

A short section already has been built under the bridge on Oliver Lewis Way, as the extension of Newtown Pike is called. There also are plans for a portion of the trail to run through the Distillery District that will be developed along Manchester Street.

Pettit eventually would like to see Town Branch Trail extend down Vine Street — on the sidewalk that is above Town Branch — to the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, where Third Street, Midland Avenue and Winchester Road meet. There, it could meet eventually with the Legacy Trail, which starts at the Kentucky Horse Park and now ends at the North Lexington Family YMCA.