Tranforming infrastructure into amenity

Landscape architects’ sketch of planned development around the water-storage tank on the Legacy Trail.
Landscape architects’ sketch of planned development around the water-storage tank on the Legacy Trail. Scape/Landscape Architecture PLLC

Even the engineers in Lexington’s Division of Water Quality understood that few would see a five-story gray water storage tank as an asset to a popular multi-use trail.

So, they began to think of ways this essential infrastructure — part of a $590 million, decade-plus effort to solve Lexington’s sewer and storm water problems — could enhance rather than detract from the Legacy Trail.

The 12-mile trail, developed in 2010 through a private-public partnership, runs from the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden in Lexington’s East End to the Kentucky Horse Park, traversing urban and rural landscapes.

This particular tank must be close to the existing Cane Run pump station, near Coldstream Research Park. As the engineers at water quality worked with neighbors and other stakeholders, the city parks department and landscape designers, a plan emerged to reduce the negative visual impact of the tank and provide a needed rest area. It will include amenities the Legacy Trail sorely needs such as restrooms, shade and water fountains for pets and their humans. The proposal also includes benches and bicycle racks.

The trees will provide relief for people walking, running and cycling in the sun. But they will also improve the view by diminishing the tank’s profile, both from the trail, and for those who view it from farther away, whether from Coldstream or Interstate 75.

Charlie Martin, the city’s director of water quality, explained to the Urban County Council that the projected price of the tank dropped from $36.5 million to $15 million through careful design and engineering, freeing up money for the $1.75 million rest area project.

Martin told the council that engaging with stakeholders was “a little bit new for water quality” but his group felt strongly the city should be held to the standards that would be applied to a private developer introducing a huge, unsightly structure where people live and play.

This is one of eight tanks planned to reduce stormwater overflows by storing water during periods of heavy rain and releasing it more gradually later. Some will be where almost no one will see them. But others will be in more populated areas, where hopefully they will be used, like this one, as opportunities for improving the area instead of dreaded eyesores.