Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Holloway is Citizen of the Year for his work at Walter Bradley Park; mayor puts blight back on council agenda

John Holloway holds the antique railroad light signifying his
Citizen of the Year award from Mayor Grayson Vandegrift.
Parks Manager John Holloway was named Midway Citizen of the Year Monday evening for a long list of accomplishments, many of which he reported to the City Council before being honored. Holloway, who sparked the revitalization and expansion of Walter Bradley Park, also reported plans for further improvements.

Among other business at the meeting, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he wanted the council to return to deliberations on the blighted property ordinance, which has been pending since last fall. One council member mentioned a prominent property that Vandegrift said shows the need for the ordinance.

New signs direct visitors to the park.
Holloway, a University of Kentucky theatre professor who lives in Midway, has used his carpentry and artistic skills to transform the park, but has also served as a motivating catalyst for others. The structure of the park board, with one member serving as manager, was made with him in mind.

In declaring Holloway Citizen of the Year, Vandegrift presented him with a 1925 railroad light. "You've been the guiding light on that train," he said. The mayor's proclamation, which says it was issued with the council's blessing, read in part:

"John Holloway can be found most days toiling somewhere on the grounds, leading the efforts of many towards the reformation of Walter Bradley Park, where he and other dedicated volunteers have created new walking trails; improved and maintained existing ones; reclaimed parts that were overrun with invasive species; planted native trees, bushes, and grasses; added new features; and built a figurative bridge between two parts of the city, as well as a literal one that now spans Lee’s Branch; and John Holloway has done all his labor for no financial gain, but for the betterment of Midway’s natural beauty, and for the enjoyment and recreation of all those who make memories there."
Photo taken in late December shows LED lights on Town Trail and the solar panels that power them.
Among the recent improvements Holloway mentioned at the meeting were:
  • Installation of about 300 linear feet of solar-powered LED lights along the Town Trail, which leads from Northside Drive to the Gratz Street entrance, across the bridge built by Holloway and city workers. "Sometimes in the winter there's not enough light to make it work," Holloway said, "but I think it works about 95 percent of the time."
  • Signs, suggested by police, banning loitering in the park from dusk to dawn, prohibiting alcohol and admonishing visitors, "Leave only footprints. Take only memories."
  • Planting several species of trees, including an "edible forest," beginning with pecans. Other species will be planted in midsummer when they are available, Holloway said.
  • Planting of native trees in the section of the park along Northside Drive, which now has a roofed gateway that is a terminus of the Town Trail.
  • Clearing of brush along the park's wet-weather creek and the small quarry, which Holloway says has a rock face "much prettier than the other one." A trail will be extended in the area.
  • Planting of Indian grass and other plants that have made the park an official way station for Monarch butterflies "five times larger then the 'colossal' size," Holloway said.
  • Planting of giant cane and native grasses that will provide screening between park visitors and residents of homes near the park boundary.
  • Planting of 1,000 daffodil bulbs, which are now blooming. "They'll just thicker as the years go by, as they multiply," Holloway said.
  • Printing of a six-panel brochure promoting the park as "a peaceful walk through nature," with one side devoted to a map of the park, its trails, its streams and its facilities.
  • Refurbuishment of the dog park, with a gravel turnaround and parking area, a bridge across the large sewer pipe, an improved fence, a kiosk with seats for shelter, and a smaller staging area, replacing one that was too prone to staying muddy.
Dog park has a new turnaround and parking, a bridge, a kiosk for shelter and a revamped staging area at the corner.
Holloway's efforts at the park began in 2015, with repair of the dog-park fence. He told the council that he would like the water turned back on at the dog park. Vandegrift said it was turned off because visitors left it on and it was also the target of a water thief. "It needs to be something that doesn't need human help to run right," the mayor said.

Vandegrift said he plans to ask the council to allocate $17,000 for improvements at the park in the annual budget he will propose soon. Holloway said the park received a $500 grant from the Woodford County Conservation District, and is seeking money for a gate behind the library. Friends of Walter Bradley Park remains active and a way to donate to park maintenance and improvements. 

Overflow from swampy area is damaging Newton Street.
Holloway said he is trying to persuade state fish and wildlife officials to stock trout in Lee Branch, but they are reluctant because trout are in heavy demand. He said he is tracking water levels and temperature in the creek, partly to help them recognize it as a trout stream.

He said the city needs to clear and reset drainage pipe from the spring in the park meadow to eliminate swampy area and stop erosion of the edge of Newton Street. Vandegrift said he hopes to address the issue through the city's next paving contract.

On Saturday, April 21, at 10 a.m., the day before Earth Day, the park will have nature walk "to show people what's already happened and talk about what's the future gonna be and ask them what they want to see," Holloway said. Later in the year, there will be a tree identification class.

Blighted property: "Now that we have a full council again, I want to bring back up the blighted property ordinance," Vandegrift said. The council debated the ordinance last fall, but discussions lagged as disagreements arose and member Libby Warfield missed several meetings. She died Feb. 24 and the council appointed Johnny Wilson to fill the seat for the rest of the year.

Ness Almadari has owned 116 E. Main St. for two years.
Vandegrift said "the main hangup seems to be whether to have a board or council committee" to enforce the ordinance. "I think it's an important issue," he said, noting "quite a few responses" in the city's current survey saying it should do more about blighted property. "I think there's a craving for it," he said.

Whatever body is assigned enforcement duty will put at the top of its list the old Masonic building at 116 East Main Street, Vandegrift said.

Council Member Steve Simoff first mentioned the building, announcing that he had asked property owner Ness Almadari his plans for the building. "He kind of indicated the possibility of doing something in the next 45 days if something else didn't get in the way," Simoff said. "I indicated it was quite dangerous" and that the city might need to place orange cones or yellow tape to keep curious pedestrians away from it. "He also seemed to take offense at me even bringing it up," Simoff said.

Vandegrift said, "The only way to get improvement on this is with a new blighted-property ordinance."

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