Archive for the Kentucky Small Towns Category

Your 2009 Portsmouth Rock Dispute Update

Posted in Art, Crime, Environment, Kentucky History, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Ohio River, Politics on February 4, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Photo of the Portsmouth Rock from

Now it’s gettin’ good. Remember the Portsmouth Rock? And how officials from Ohio and Kentucky have been squabbling over it for the past year? Well, the Associated Press (via the Courier-Journal) is reporting this morning that Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is takin’ it up a notch:

Kentucky’s squabble with an Ohio city over a historic rock that lay for years at the bottom of the Ohio River is rolling into federal court.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has filed a federal civil lawsuit in Ashland, Ky., against the city of Portsmouth, Ohio, and three men over the 8-ton boulder known as Indian Head Rock.

The lawsuit claims a violation of Kentucky law and is seeking, in part, the return of the rock to Kentucky.

The rock bears numerous carvings of initials, names and a crude face and once was an attraction for locals. It had been submerged in the river since about the 1920s until September 2007, when a historian in Ohio led a team to extract it.

The boulder now rests in a city garage in Portsmouth, Ohio, about 110 miles southeast of Cincinnati.

Thank goodness, we were tired of reading nothing but serious news!


Simpsonville Slaughter Historical Marker to be Dedicated Sunday

Posted in Happenings, Kentucky History, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Obituary, Transportation on January 20, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Marker image from 5th Regiment Cavalry, United States Colored Troops site.)

On Sunday, out in Simpsonville just east of Louisville, a new historical marker will be dedicated along U.S. 60, telling the tale of the “Simpsonville Slaughter” that occurred in 1865. We’ll admit, we’d never even heard of this terrible part of our nation’s history until we read the Courier-Journal‘s story on the dedication this morning:

A historical marker noting a Civil War massacre called the Simpsonville Slaughter will be dedicated Sunday along U.S. 60 at Webb Road, one-half mile west of Simpsonville.

On Jan. 25, 1865, while driving a herd of cattle to a slaughterhouse in Louisville, elements of the 5th U.S. Colored Cavalry were attacked near Simpsonville by Confederate guerillas.

Twenty-two soldiers were killed and at least 20 others wounded, including four of whom died later of their wounds.

The cavalry was based at Camp Nelson, and nearly all of the soldiers were former slaves.

The ceremony dedicating the marker will be at 2 p.m. on the 144th anniversary of the incident.

The ceremony, which is open to the public, will begin indoors at the Whitney M. Young Job Corps Center gymnasium; the center is just off U.S. 60.

The marker will then be unveiled at the intersection, less than a quarter-mile from the center.

The keynote speaker at the 2 p.m. service will be W. Stephen McBride, director of interpretation and archaeology at the Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park in Jessamine County. Civil War re-enactors will participate in the ceremony.

Jerry Miller, the volunteer Simpsonville Slaughter project manager with the Shelby County Historical Society, said most of the victims of the attack were buried in a mass grave near the site of the ambush and near where the marker will be erected.

Pretty interesting stuff, to be sure! There’s much more information available both at the 5th Regiment Cavalry site and at the Camp Nelson site.

Short Friends of Otter Creek Park Interview on 84 WHAS

Posted in Development, Economics, Environment, Happenings, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Labor, Louisville News, Media, Metro Parks, Ohio River, Otter Creek Park, Politics on January 5, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Otter Creek Park sign from

From our sister blog, Save Otter Creek Park:

84 WHAS aired a short story on Friends of Otter Creek Park this morning. You can read the story here, and listen to it here. There’s a short clip of audio in the piece from when I was interviewed by Suzanne Duvall of 84 WHAS last Friday. Obviously they couldn’t use everything, but the short bit where I point out that Otter Creek Park is one of the things that makes Louisville “unique” was nice.

Both WHAS-11 and WDRB-41 (clicking on the WDRB link will open Windows Media Player) mention the meeting tonight in news stories as well. Links courtesy the Valley Report.

And as the story points out, please don’t forget tonight’s meeting at the Southwest Government Center, 219 Dixie Hwy #106 in Southwest Louisville at 7 PM!

UPDATE: The agenda for tonight’s meeting has been posted here:

C-J: Otter Creek Park Likely To Be Padlocked Through June

Posted in Development, Economics, Environment, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Louisville News, Media, Metro Parks, Ohio River, Otter Creek Park, Politics on January 2, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

(2001 photo of the Otter Creek Park Conference Center by Michael Clevenger for the Courier-Journal.)

Amidst the flurry of news reports about Otter Creek Park‘s closing this past week, the Courier-Journal reported on Wednesday that Metro Parks anticipates that OCP will be closed through the month of June:

Otter Creek Park appears certain to close for an indefinite period on Friday, despite efforts to keep it open.

A group called Friends of Otter Creek Park is discussing strategies for keeping the Meade County park operating, and the city of Louisville remains open to turning it over to either the state or a private vendor.

But for the immediate future, “there are not a lot of reasons to be optimistic,” said Chris Poynter, Mayor Jerry Abramson’s spokesman, adding that hopes for reopening the park soon may be overly optimistic.

“Money is the whole thing,” said Metro Parks Director Mike Heitz.

The city acquired the 2,600-acre park about 25 miles southwest of downtown Louisville in 1947 as a gift from the federal government for its support of Fort Knox during World War II.

Covenants require the property be used for public recreation.

Poynter said the city will save about $180,000 by closing the park for the rest of the fiscal year, through June.

That’s just a fraction of the $20 million needed to make up for revenue lost to flagging job- and business-profit taxes taken by the recession. But, Poynter said, “We had to make tough (budget) decisions, and we think it is best to focus our limited resources on parks within the city.”

Most of the park’s staff of eight has been assigned to other city parks; one full-time and one part-time worker will remain at Otter Creek for maintenance and security, including trying to prevent poaching, said Metro Parks spokesman Andrew Crocker.

The story also reported on Friends of Otter Creek Park’s efforts:

The Friends of Otter Creek group has met twice and will meet again at 7 p.m. Monday at the Southwest Government Center on Dixie Highway.

Several Web sites devoted to the effort have popped up, including a Facebook page, where more than 5,000 people have signed on.

Patsy Bowman, one of the Friends organizers, said ideas for keeping the park open include charging admission, raising user fees and, perhaps, shutting it down from November to April.

The supporters plan soon to present their ideas to Abramson, she said, adding, “I do believe we have a shot.”

Metro Parks officials have said they couldn’t charge admission without losing immunity in lawsuits filed by anyone injured at the park.

Not to open a can of worms with this post, but it seems dubious that the City would be exposing itself to major liability by charging an entrance fee. This is the one sticking point that is always brought up, but so far has yet to be explained in any detail to be credible. Certainly, many parks and wildlife areas all over the country charge entrance fees.

Additionally, measures by the State and other entities were discussed as well:

State Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, said he has talked to numerous state officials about ways to keep the park open, but “it’s just too early” to pinpoint a direction.

“We have some things hopefully turning,” he said. “I’d love to see the park up and running by May.”

Jay Blanton, spokesman for Gov. Steve Beshear, said yesterday that the state administration is willing to talk about ways to preserve Otter Creek, though he said he knows of “no active proposal out there right now that would prevent the closure of the park in the immediate future.”

He said the state, facing its own $456 million revenue shortfall, “certainly has no options involving any kind of assistance for Otter Creek from the general fund.”

Even so, Heitz said his assistants intend to meet with Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources officials next month. They have expressed interest in designating Otter Creek as a wildlife-management area. Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Jon Gassett has said one condition for the state taking over Otter Creek would be that Metro Parks’ ban on hunting and fishing in the park be lifted.

Heitz said Metro Parks has had inquiries from several private vendors and developers interested in running the park. He said the city is considering advertising for competitive proposals for running the park from a developer, who might want to add such amenities as a golf course, restaurant or hotel to generate revenue.

Abramson met Dec. 18 with Col. Rick Schwartz, garrison commander at Fort Knox. The Army officers “indicated they would love to keep it open … but that they had no funding,” Poynter said.

Fort Knox spokesman Ryan Brus said the post already operates the 65-acre Camp Carlson, which includes a 25-acre lake, lodge and campsites open to soldiers, their families and guests. Taking on Otter Creek would duplicate some of those facilities, he said.

Poynter said Meade County officials also “have indicated they don’t have the wherewithal to run such a large park.”

But County Judge-Executive Harry Craycroft, who described the park’s closing as “a crying shame,” said Meade officials are supporting Greer’s efforts to involve the state.

Unfortunately, State and Federal options seem unlikely. Private enterprises interested in running the Park aren’t discussed in any detail, either. Clearly if a major portion of the park would be developed as a result of a private entity taking control, that might be damaging to the wildlife in and around the park, and could definitely be terrible.

In Wednesday’s issue of the C-J, there also appeared this story about David Jones’s 21st Century Parks project: Metro Council Panel Backs Park Management Deal. And in today’s paper there’s this glowing report about Waterfront Park: Waterfront Park Nears Completion of Its Green Revival After 10 Years.

Why can’t there be the same sort of cooperation between public and private enterprise to keep Otter Creek Park open, if that’s what needs to be done? If the budget problems that threatened OCP loomed on the horizon, why didn’t Louisville Metro make as much effort as possible to keep OCP from closing? These questions, and many more, need to be answered.

Kentucky Coalition to Sue EPA Over Mountain Streams

Posted in Appalachia, Environment, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Media, Politics on December 23, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

The Courier-Journal is reporting this morning that a coalition of groups in Kentucky and Appalachia are suing the Environmental Protection Agency after a lame-duck revision that would allow mining companies to potentially dump waste rock in mountain streams:

A coalition of environmental groups including Kentucky Waterways Alliance has sued the Interior Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to overturn a new rule that will make it easier for mining companies to dump waste rock into streams.

The revisions, made final Dec. 12, will let mining companies disregard a 100-foot stream buffer zone if they are able to convince regulators that no other option was available and that they had taken steps to minimize harm to the environment.

Attorneys with Earthjustice, Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance filed the legal challenge yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The suit was filed on behalf of the Kentucky environmental group as well as the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Coal River Mountain Watch and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

If not overturned, the environmental groups from Kentucky, West Virginia or Tennessee said the rule change would lead to more mountaintop removal coal mining. That’s the mining practice of using explosives on the tops and sides of mountains to get at underlying coal seams.

“The notion that coal mining companies can dump their wastes in streams without degrading them is a fantasy that the Bush administration is now trying to write into law,” said Judith Petersen, executive director of Kentucky Waterways Alliance.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the federal agencies violated environmental protection standards, failed to consider the cumulative effects of stream loss from mining, and failed to analyze a full range of alternatives, among other allegations.

At issue is a new Office of Surface Mining rule that revised a 25-year-old rule that generally prohibited mining within 100 feet of streams, but has been a source of controversy and confusion since it was challenged in a federal lawsuit in West Virginia in the late 1990s. Despite the rule, companies generally have been allowed to fill the upper reaches of stream beds in mountain hollows…

Gov. Steve Beshear along with Attorney General Jack Conway and U.S. Reps. Ben Chandler and John Yarmuth wrote letters to the EPA opposing the rule change. But 20 Kentucky legislators, including House Speaker Jody Richards and House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, followed up with their own letter supporting the change.

We expect the story to get a fair amount of national coverage as well, beginning with this Associated Press piece on the lawsuit.

In other environmental news, yesterday the EPA designated five counties within the Louisville region, as well as some other counties within Kentucky, as non-compliant with federal clean air standards regarding particulates. Fun.

Farewell to Byron Crawford

Posted in Economics, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Louisville News, Media, Ohio River on December 5, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Photo of Byron Crawford from some time in the 1970s from the C-J.)

While his column was sometimes (okay, most always) hokey, it is a shame that Byron Crawford, longtime scribe of all things Kentucky at the Courier-Journal, penned his last column today. You can read it here.

Crawford’s retirement comes as the Courier-Journal lays off 10 percent of its work force, as mandated by its owner the Gannett Company. For coverage of Gannett’s layoffs and miscues, check out the Gannett Blog.

Big Box Reuse Author Coming to Louisville, Bardstown

Posted in Art, Development, Drink, Economics, Environment, Happenings, Kentucky Small Towns, Labor, Louisville News, Media, Politics, Transportation on December 3, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(above image of Julia Christensen’s Big Box Reuse from

We got scooped on it by Consuming Louisville, but we still wanted to inform you that our good friend and Bardstown native Julia Christensen will be in both Louisville and Bardstown this weekend to talk about her book Big Box Reuse (which we told you about back in October). Julia’s presenting a free opening of photographs from the book at the Green Building Gallery this Friday, December 5th from 5 to 9 PM. Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

In her book Big Box Reuse , and accompanying photographic exhibition, Julia Christensen takes us on a road trip across America to look at what becomes of the spaces superstores leave behind when they move out. These warehouse-like buildings have found their place in the built landscape since the first Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target stores opened in 1962.

Since the spring of 2004, Christensen has driven over 75,000 miles, visiting converted “big boxes” and meeting the people who are transforming these massive shells into useful structures for their community. She has documented what happened to the structures, the parking lots, and the surrounding communities. She has found out who wanted to reuse the buildings, why and how. What Christensen has discovered is that examining the big box building provides a wealth of information that will help us steer the future of our landscape with more informed decision-making processes. Among the things Big Box Reuse points out: despite the harmful construction of the big box, reuse is a powerful tool in the fight against the increasing dangers of sprawl. For every building that is reused, a new one does not go up; a monumental victory, as the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently indicated the energy used to destroy older buildings in addition to the energy used to build new ones could power the entire state of California for 10 years (LA Times, October 2008).

She’ll also be speaking and signing books tomorrow (that’s Thursday, December 4th) at the Glassworks Building at 6 PM as part of the Sustainable City Series. This event is free but space is limited; you can reserve a space here.

Last but not least, Julia will be in Bardstown on Saturday, December 6th for a book signing at Bardstown Booksellers starting at 2 PM.

For more information, visit the Big Box Reuse site at