LEXINGTON, Ky. — A 10-year journey ended this morning with the snip of a ribbon at the celebration to officially open Town Branch Commons Trail in Lexington on Thursday.
The design of the trail celebrates the Bluegrass by bringing iconic elements of the region through the heart of the city. It features lush stormwater landscaping using native grasses, flowers and trees, as well as a modern interpretation of Lexington’s dry-stacked limestone fences and pacing details inspired by the karst geology found across Kentucky.
Mayor Linda Gorton, Gov. Andy Beshear, former Mayor Jim Gray and Rep. Andy Barr (R-Lexington) joined dozens of walkers and cyclists for the festivities.
The trail is the vision of Gray, who won a federal grant in 2016 to provide most of the funding. “Town Branch Commons was a 10-year project born of imagination, persistence, determination and a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” said Gray, who is now Kentucky Transportation Secretary. “It’s a great example of the power of improved transportation to connect communities, boost the quality of life and offer a safe, multi-modal system that meets the needs of all its users.”
“This trail is a path to economic vitality, to healthy living, and to our beautiful Bluegrass countryside,” Gorton said. “It’s the kind of quality of life investment that people in Lexington treasure, and visitors travel here to enjoy.”
“The Town Branch Commons project connects our parks, people, and businesses in downtown Lexington in a way that will boost commerce and recreation,” said Barr. “I was honored to support this initiative and deliver a federal grant that helped power its completion.”
The trail is 2.2 miles in length and, while it is mostly seen as a transportation project, it is also a green infrastructure project. The trail features native plantings and over 300 trees, tripling the urban tree canopy on a stretch of downtown roads, officials said in a news release. They also say it adds nearly two acres of planting areas along the corrider. It is designed to address storm water runoff as well.
The trail roughly follows the path of historic Town Branch, Lexington’s original water source, through downtown. As it runs along Midland Avenue, it becomes a 14-feet-wide, multi-use path. On Vine Street, the trail separates into a path for walkers and a path for cyclists. Town Branch Commons also links together two major trails, the Town Branch Trail and the Legacy Trail, creating 22 miles of uninterrupted trail.
Trail designer Kate Orff, a prominent landscape architect who has designed projects around the world, was in Lexington to join in the celebration. “This is a testament to years of collaborative work — grant proposals, public education initiatives, iterative design, and work with local artisans to craft a space for all Lexingtonians.”
The trail has already attracted national recognition. In 2022, it was awarded the Environmental Excellence Award by the Federal Highway Administration.