Ky. voices: Guy Mendes says saving 15 minutes is not worth destroying southern Jessamine's farmland, ancient landscape

Entrance of a cave in the Marble Creek Gorge in Jessamine County
Entrance of a cave in the Marble Creek Gorge in Jessamine County

It is distressing to learn that the powers-that-be in Nicholasville, which is to say, the politicians and developers, have resurrected a plan to build a highway through southern Jessamine County to connect to I-75 in northern Madison County.

They argue that this road will cut 15 minutes off the drive time for semi-trucks to get from I-75 to Nicholasville, thus increasing the flow of goods and the business climate in general.

What they don't say is that the proposed road will destroy some of the most fertile farmland in the world and threaten fragile ecosystems along palisaded watersheds like Marble Creek, which empties into the Kentucky River just north of the Valley View Ferry.

The Marble Creek Gorge is home to deer, beavers, otters, kingfishers, egrets, foxes and a vast array of wildflowers and old trees, caves and spectacular rock formations. It is an ancient landscape, much the same as it was when the first white people (Daniel Boone included) ventured into this part of Kentucky over 200 years ago, much the same as it has been for millennia.

I've been fortunate to visit family and friends on Marble Creek for the past 30-something years. People who live along the creek have spent countless hours caring for and protecting this wild and beautiful tributary, hauling out trash, digging out invasive species.

They understand the value of Marble Creek as a wild place, and want it to be passed on to future generations in its pristine state.

County leaders want to cash in this natural wonderland in exchange for big bucks from the state transportation department, anywhere from $100 million to $400 million. The big winners will be the road contractors, who have lined the pockets of their favorite politicians. (With this being an election year, even Democrat Ben Chandler has come out in favor of the highway — an astonishing disappointment, considering that the Democrats are supposed to be stewards of the environment.)

The other big winners will be the business interests who build the gas stations and subdivisions and strip malls that will inevitably spring up at every interchange, turning southern Jessamine County's extraordinary landscape into a commercial thoroughfare like we see in the northern part of the county.

So a few big shots will make millions while the big losers will be the landowners, who have beaten back efforts to build this connector before.

They, and their children and grandchildren will lose their land, their woods and creeks — for many, the very reasons they chose to settle and stay on Marble Creek.

Of course, it's not only they who lose, it's all of us, for the loss of a wide swath of invaluable natural habitat makes us all poorer. That's what happens when we allow a few movers-and-shakers to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

The good news is that there is strong opposition to the I-75 connector scheme.

Go to http://www.stopi75connector.com/ or the Facebook page http://www.stopi75connector.com/ for more information.