LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The City of Lexington’s purchase of 30 acres of land along the Kentucky River, creating the city’s only public access to the river, is expected to create a big boost in economic activity in the area.
The city plans to spend $1.6 million to purchase the land, which is near the Clay’s Ferry Bridge, between Old Richmond Road and The Kentucky River.
Currently, there’s no public way to reach the river to launch small boats, kayaks, and canoes in the county.
“Some of my guests bring their kayaks and I tell them they have to go down to Fort Boonesborough to even launch it," said Brenda Oldfield, the owner of Kentucky Riverfront Cottages. Her property borders the property the city purchased.
Her guests are from across the county, in Kentucky in part to take advantage of the river.
Deborah Garrison, who owns the nearby Waterfront Grille in nearby Clark County, said fewer people visit now than before.
“Since 2004 when they closed the (river) locks we have been under a depressed situation. Nobody has been able to make money, or do anything economically to help the region,” she said.
But tides are set to change with the land purchase. Oldfield shared a study with LEX 18 that found public access that allows for paddling could help lead to a large economic impact on the area.
“The purchase of this land brings many opportunities to those of us who live here, and those of us who visit,” said Jennifer Sanchez, who leads the city’s Parks Department. “Ideally sooner rather than later people will have access to more passive recreation, such as more walking trails, access to canoeing and kayaking, right there being able to launch in that site.”
More significant infrastructure could come later if they secure additional funding, she said.
The river is safe to swim in, according to the division of water’s last check in 2020.
Both Garrison and Oldfield are excited for the future and believe this will be a boost for their businesses. More than that, Oldfield is just happy to share the river she loves with more people.