Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Group of local residents making progress in effort to make Old Frankfort Pike a National Scenic Byway

By Denny Densford
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Old Frankfort Pike is just short of 17 miles long, but soon may be recognized as one of the nation’s most scenic byways.

Chris Amos, a historic conservation consultant, led an open house Wednesday at Midway College to discuss a plan to certify Old Frankfort Pike through the National Scenic Byway program and what it would mean for the community and residents along the road.  More than 30 residents and interested parties attended the presentation.

Designation as a National Scenic Byway could bring money to preserve and enhance the historic route as well as national attention that would enhance tourism and educational projects in the area. There are only 151 roads recognized by the National Scenic Byway program in the U.S., and only six in Kentucky.

“This one is exceptional,” Amos said of the road.  “We’re in a very urban area.” While the road has a rural character, all of it lies in the Lexington metropolitan area, which includes all of Woodford County.

Old Frankfort Pike gets most of its charm from the gently rolling pastures of historic, pastoral horse farms, often tightly embraced by trees and other native Kentucky greenery and dry-stone and plank fences that give it a very comfortable feel. The drive is short, but the journey has a distinct country feel to it that undeniably says “this is the heart of the Bluegrass.”

Amos is working for Lexington-Frankfort Scenic Corridor Inc., a long-established nonprofit group that is organizing the development of a corridor management plan that will be the next step toward nomination with the National Scenic Byway program.

The project’s advisory committee is Henry Alexander of Sterling Farm and Midway Land & Auction, Susan Atkin of Casa Farm, former state auditor Crit Luallen of Frankfort, Don Ball of Donamire Farm and Ball Homes, Muffy Lyster of Polo Hunt Farm, Robert Clay of Three Chimneys Farm, Sasha Sanan of Padua Stables, Kentucky Horseracing Commission vice chairman Tracy Farmer of Shadowlawm Farm, and former Lexington-Fayette Council Member David Stevens.

In addition to the committee, project volunteers at the meeting included Julie Riesenweber, instructor of historical preservation in the University of Kentucky College of Design, and students from the college.

While many National Scenic Byways showcase lengths of national-forest and Bureau of Land Management roads, Old Frankfort Pike’s beauty comes from scenic farms and private lands, Amos noted.

The state has designated and signed Old Frankfort Pike from Lexington to the railroad crossing near the Franklin County line (right) as a Kentucky Scenic Byway, but that includes no funding to help maintain the road, something Amos said would help both its appeal and safety.

 “Federal funding is an 80 percent federal, 20 percent local match,” Amos noted, “so it’s a nice opportunity.”

As well as money, recognition as a National Scenic Byway would give the road national advertising and opportunities for local businesses or farms to advertise with in association with the new road to increase tourism and activity in the area.

The nomination begins with a corridor management plan that exhibits a road’s scenic, historic, natural, cultural or other intrinsic properties, and includes a detailed plan for tourism, conservation and promotion for the road. It must contain boundaries, points with intrinsic qualities, and current land use.  It must assess the road’s important intrinsic qualities, and offer a detailed plan on how the area will be maintained, enhanced and publicly exposed and connected to the community. All the requirements for the plan are listed here.

Amos said the advisory committee came together in September 2012 and the corridor management plan is scheduled to be completed by June, with a draft available sometime in the spring.   She also said that the money needed to proceed had already been raised.

Alexander, chairman of the advisory committee, said that the initial $20,000 needed to cover the costs necessary to build the plan was acquired entirely through donations.

Amos said more than 200 letters and emails were sent to residents along the pike and other interested parties, and while she was hoping for a larger turnout, she was not discouraged in her efforts to get the word out.

Rex Cecil, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Architects and a resident along Old Frankfort Pike, said he thought it could be an important step for the road and that he was interested in finding out what recognition could do for it.

“I’m surprised we haven’t done more,” said Cecil, adding that he was excited to see that students were getting involved in the efforts.  “Fresh minds are a good thing.”

Amos said that she thought the meeting went well and that she would come prepared to discuss transportation issues in the next meeting that has been roughly scheduled for February before the group moves forward with the corridor management plan.

Below is a MapQuest image with the Kentucky Scenic Byway section of the road marked in blue. Click on the image for a much larger version.

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