A proposal for smart growth in Jessamine County

Along the US68 Mixed Use Trail (Old 68)
Jessamine County, Kentucky
Last week, Fayette Circuit Court Judge James Ishmael ruled against Burgess Carey and his zipline operation in rural Fayette County Boone Creek. The injunctive relief won by the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government closed Boone Creek Outdoors. Carey's Boone Creek Outdoors had offered the ziplines, canopy tours, and fly fishing.

These tourist attractions were located on private property owned by Mr. Carey, but were ruled to be outside the scope of a conditional use permit issued to him by the LFUCG in 2000.

During the few months which Boone Creek was open, it was routinely filled with visitors. It was a unique attraction in the region and one which had the promise of great success.

And it is the kind of success that we, in Jessamine County, must embrace.

As I've noted here before, Jessamine County has abundant natural beauty and a rich history.

These resources must be harnessed into an economic engine, rather than cast aside in favor of old-fashioned ideas and stale economics.

To some extent, our community has begun to recognize the advantages of adventure tourism.

The Kentucky River Blueway Trail includes the 42 miles along Jessamine County's southern border, providing kayaking, fishing, canoeing, and other forms of recreation to visitors.

But I believe we could — and should — go further. Imagine a complete network of bicycle paths throughout the county. These could be placed alongside existing roads or along the paths of either active or decommissioned rail lines. Specialized paths like Lexington's Legacy Trail could also be added to the bicycle network where necessary.

Couple this with a bounty of mountain biking options. Include opportunities for hiking, ziplines, canopy tours, and other ideas - the sky is the limit!

By embracing adventure tourism, Jessamine County could realign itself as a major destination in central Kentucky. Look south to Rockcastle County, where the small community of Livingston has re-emerged like a phoenix. Once thriving prior to the installation of Interstate 75, this small town deteriorated to almost nothing. But the past few years, a committed citizenry has brought to Livingston a renaissance. In June, it was designated Kentucky’s second Trail Town.

With such a designation, increases in locally-owned restaurants, lodgings, shops, and trailsupport businesses naturally ensue. It is the kind of industry that supports both historic and landscape preservation. And it is the kind of industry that does not require the construction of an unnecessary, expensive interstate connector.

For better or worse, we do not have the same zoning restrictions here that exist in Lexington.

We do, however, have the natural and historic resources to make our community an exciting destination.

Imagine turning Jessamine County into Lexington's backyard — a playground where the people of central Kentucky come to relax and have fun.

This kind of idea requires commitment of private property owners, entrepreneurship, and a shared vision among political leaders.

But I suggest that this way forward is a positive one which will enable Jessamine County to grow economically while retaining its unique character.

This column originally appeared in the Jessamine Journal
It should not be republished without permission.