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A first in Fayette County; ground broken for a riverside recreational-leisure park

Stu Johnson

Wednesday afternoon brought an opportunity for Lexington city officials and park enthusiasts to gather at the River. The scene was a groundbreaking ceremony

“Welcome to Kelley’s Landing. Lexington’s first public river park.”

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton. The 30-acre park will be developed off Old Richmond Road near the I-75 bridge. In addition to trails, Kayakers and canoeists will be able to access the Kentucky River and travel 12 miles between locks. Parks Director Monica Conrad said the park will have a natural areas designation and highlighting some historical and cultural connections.

“We will also explore educational opportunities, watershed and water quality education. Curriculum based environmental education programs and learning about the landforms, geology, and the towering limestone cliffs of the Kentucky River Palisades,” said Conrad.

A $150,000 investment from the Fund for Greater Lexington will support development of a master plan. It will be developed by Gresham Smith. Louis Johnson is a landscape architect with the firm. He said there will be public engagement in developing the plan

“Where are the activity spaces, where are the trails, where are boat houses? Things for kayaks to be stored. All the basic infrastructure that you need in the public space. Thinking about access and parking and lighting and all of those kinds of elements will be a piece of this overall process,” said Johnson

The property was purchased with Parks Acquisition Funds. These are fees paid by developers to go specifically for buying parks land. It amounted to $1.6 million. The park is named for the late John Kelley whose family bought the property in 1924 and ran a general store there.

In the 1960s and 70s the family opened a boat dock. Mr. Kelley ran the dock until the late 1980’s when his focus shifted to the family farm. Since the City purchased the property in 2022, site preparation has been done to demolish unsafe buildings and remove debris. It’s expected to open this fall. Lexington Parks and Recreation is a financial contributor to Weku.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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