Friday, February 12

To Build a Trail

Last night I presented a proposal to the Stanton City Council for a new shared use path.  While groundbreaking is still an uncertain and distant thing, it's become a real possibility when for so long it had been simply a daydream careening around inside my skull bouncing off so many other ideas.  Not all of these ideas are my original creative thoughts.  But this one I can take a little more credit for.
To be completely honest this wouldn't be happening if not for the help of Blake—a local runner and engineer.  Well over a year ago he and I started brainstorming about potential trails in and around Stanton and into Powell County beyond.  We shared a few ideas; meaning we both had come up with basically the same ideas independently of each other.  And each of us had our own unique ideas that we brought to the table.
In the process of writing the countywide bike ped plan last year I incorporated all of those ideas.  A conceptual idea that I had was to build a shared use path generally within the floodplain of Judy Creek.  The creek begins on the north slope of Furnace Mountain and flows through the heart of Stanton to the Red River.  It runs past the grocery store, numerous residential areas, the library, elementary ties the community together.
In a conversation with the county Judge Executive I mentioned my idea and specifically the section of Judy Creek that runs along the back side of two industrial parks south of town.  The Judge suggested that a trail in that area should connect to the future senior citizens center which will be immediately north of the industrial park.
The current senior citizens center is at the city park where there is currently a half mile paved trail.  The location of the new senior center is where the new trail is proposed.  If the trail isn’t built the senior center loses that amenity.  For me that is a clear selling point for this project. 
Not only will the trail provide proximate access to around fifty homes, but a little over a quarter of a mile away is a low income housing development.  A few hundred people will be within spitting distance of the new trail.  Please don’t spit on the trail.
The trail will ring two industrial parks.  Reed is becoming close to built-out and Manning is still a greenfield.  This trail will provide an amenity to prospective companies that may look at locating to either park.  Those companies may be able to leverage the close proximity to the trail and its amenities for their wellness programs and to entice employees and managers.
Acting as a linear park and expanding the community’s park facilities the trails will provide relief to trail users who are frustrated during little league season, the Corn Festival, and other events at the city park that inhibit their use of the trail there.  There will also be more potential for running and walking events, bike rodeos, and other fitness and recreation activities.
All of this is good and fine.  But my insidious purpose behind getting this trail built is…
Well, it’s no real secret.  I see this project as the low hanging fruit.  The Industrial Authority owns the majority of the property where the trail will be located.  They are fully supportive of the project and therefore there is a high likelihood of its success.  Once we get a real life honest-to-god shared use path in the county I think it will be easier to get broader support for more such projects.  My grand scheme is to connect Clay City and Stanton to Slade.  I want to span the county with multiuse trails. 
Judy Creek Trail (Sections 6 & 7 from the master plan) is the first step.
Preliminary proposal
The Council approved the proposal so fast it made my head spin.  We’re well on our way. 
I still have three or four committee/council meetings to go to for this to be official.  The public meeting is already scheduled and I need to start working on that presentation.  There are a couple of spots of private land that need to be addressed as well.  We’re working on that.
Best case we have a new trail by the end of this year.  Worst case the grant is denied.  I feel confident that we’ll be awarded the grant.  This is huge for my rural community.


Friday, February 5

From the Planner's Desk: It's Safe to Pass This Law

UPDATE: The bill passed the Senate 33-4.  Now it goes before the house.

Kentucky Senate Bill 80 has passed committee.  On Wednesday, February 3, 2016 the Senate Committee on Transportation voted unanimously to pass the bill.

SB 80 is the “Safe Passing Law” or “Three Foot Law” that has been championed by Dixie Moore and supported by various organizations and a host of individual cyclists and advocates.  Kentucky is one of only a very few states that do not already have some form of a safe passing law on the books.  It looks like we’re getting closer, though nothing is guaranteed at this point.

L to R: Asa Swan, Sen. Robin Webb, Troy Hearn, and Doug Brent
before the Senate Committee on Transportation

Unfortunately a controversial cyclist in Nicholasville a couple of years ago complicated the conversation.  Before that I had not heard the standard fare anti-cycling rhetoric that was so well rehearsed in the national dialogue and more specifically in Colorado where I lived for five years.

Yes, oddly enough, a more bicycle friendly state seemed to have greater controversy surrounding cycling than my “unfriendly” home state where I was pleasantly surprised upon moving back to discover that Kentucky drivers tend to slow down, get over, and in general act more friendly to cyclists.  At least in rural areas.

Something that struck me as odd was that a number of Senators on the committee cited the Kentucky Trail Town program and its exploded popularity among constituents across the state as influencing their support of the bill.  It’s not that I don’t see the value in the Trail Town program myself, but what mystified me was that it had such a profound effect on the legislators in regards to the bicycle safety bill.  I’ll take it!

So what’s next?  The bill is not yet a law.  First it must go before the full Senate for a vote.  Then to the House Committee on Transportation for a vote, then before the full House and finally before the Governor for his signature if it makes it that far.  We still have a few hurdles to get past, but this is a positive start to be certain.

Now the real legwork comes into play for advocates of this bill.  It’s time to ramp up the letter/email writing and phone call campaigns to Senators and Representatives.  It's time to storm the Capitol on our bikes!