Op-Ed

Neighbors taking care of Boone Creek watershed

The property along Boone Creek includes the ruins of a mill built about 1803.
The property along Boone Creek includes the ruins of a mill built about 1803.

The Dec. 18 column about the Boone Creek Gorge stated "long-term protection would require money and thoughtful management. And without something like Boone Creek Outdoors, where will that money and management come from?"

The protection and preservation of this invaluable Central Kentucky resource might be new to some, but the property owners and neighborhood associations in the Boone Creek watershed have long been interested in and actively participated in the long-term protection and management of Boone Creek's historic and environmentally sensitive resources.

To suggest that this treasured resource is unknown and underappreciated is certainly not a correct statement. Those who live there know exactly where all the money and management have come from in the past and where it will more than likely continue to come from in the future.

The Boone Creek area has been recognized by local, state and federal groups as a primary focus area for preservation and conservation for many years.

The Greenway Master Plan, Greenspace Plan, Rural Land Management Plan and comprehensive plans in Fayette and Clark counties all recommend that this watershed be protected and preserved.

The neighborhood residents have volunteered countless hours serving on public and private boards, commissions and committees geared toward the protection and preservation of the area, to help make all of Fayette and Clark counties better places for everyone to live.

The neighborhood associations, with residents and property owners in the Boone Creek watershed, have been actively following and participating in watershed protection and enhancement plans for the past 30 years. The joint Clark and Fayette County Conservation Districts and Natural Resources Conservation Service, at the request of the Athens and Boone Creek neighborhood associations, developed The Boone Creek Ecosystem Based Watershed Plan in the early 1990s.

This plan originated from grass-roots concerns for the quality of water and management of the natural resources throughout the watershed. Volunteers did the work and footed costs not covered by the Conservation Services.

The Kentucky Division of Water, in cooperation with the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service, conducted an assessment of Kentucky waterways and stated that "Boone Creek is considered one of the least impacted, free-flowing scenic Kentucky River tributaries remaining in Central Kentucky. Water resources of the watershed are used for recreation and wildlife habitat."

This area had long been used for all kinds of recreation and wildlife habitat before that study was commenced.

The neighborhood associations and private property owners worked on National Register Rural Historic District status for the Boone Creek watershed. The Lower, Middle and Upper Reaches of the District lie in both Fayette and Clark counties from the Kentucky River to the headwaters along Winchester Road.

They paid for the consultants, volunteered their time and effort to do research and helped support those applications all the way through the local, state and federal bureaucracies to become realities.

The same folks were responsible for compiling all the research and nomination applications for the Kentucky Scenic Byway designations placed on Old Richmond, McCalls Mill, Grimes Mill and Athens-Boonesborough roads — the roads that traverse this watershed.

On their own time and at their own expense, they have kept these roadways mowed, planted trees, repaired stone fences and are constantly fighting to eradicate invasive plant species.

They furnished representatives to the Bluegrass Driving Tour committee that included these roads as part of a tourism effort to encourage others to drive through and appreciate this unique Inner Bluegrass landscape. The same roads were supported and promoted as part of the designated rural bikeway routes.

Numerous property owners throughout the watershed in both counties have continued to follow the various adopted plans by voluntarily placing agricultural/conservation easements on their properties in perpetuity. Many of these were donated and not purchased easements.

This effort now totals thousands of acres to help in the effort to guarantee the protection and preservation of the unique resources in this watershed. Everyone needs to know that money and dedicated management have already been happening through landowners and these active neighborhood associations for many years.

The Boone Creek Gorge does not need any commercialization to protect or preserve its special characteristics.

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