The River View Trail officially opened on a beautiful Saturday morning that was perfect to show it off.
The roughly $400,000 path – of which about $320,000 was paid with federal transportation money and the rest by the city – runs from the end of West Main Street near River View Park to the state government complex past Buffalo Trace Distillery on Wilkinson Boulevard.
It ends nearby at the BP station.
The completion of the 1.5-mile paved route for bicyclists and pedestrians is the first leg in a proposed 5-mile River Walk Loop.
That proposed loop continues from the Buffalo Trace complex east through Cove Spring Park, south on a path between Holmes and East Main streets past Kentucky State University along the abandoned Pinsly Railroad bed, and reconnects in downtown Frankfort on West Main.
It’s part of Walk/Bike Frankfort’s 2007 master plan and fits into the goals of the city’s Riverfront Development Plan.
“We’ve reached a major milestone today,” Brent Sweger, president of Walk/Bike Frankfort, said during the opening ceremony at Ward Oates Amphitheatre. He said bike lanes were currently being built on Broadway as part of the downtown portion of the loop.
City Parks and Recreation Co-director Jim Parrish said the full loop would hopefully be finished in three years. Within a month, the River View Trail will be basically extended into Cove Spring Park as part of a wetland restoration effort.
Jim Call, the city’s Walk/Bike coordinator and a member of Walk/Bike Frankfort, described the roughly half-mile portion in Cove Spring as a bumpy, “through-the-woods kind of trail,” but he said improvements can be made later.
The current path passes through River View Park first, where it starts near the amphitheater, goes under the old railroad bridge and both West Frankfort Connector bridges, moves past placards telling the history of Frankfort and stone fences built in the manner of different historical eras, and continues by the pavilion commemorating the bicentennial of Franklin County. An offshoot connects to the Fort Hill Civil War Park.
Once out of the park, the trail, which was paved with a gentle slope to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, meanders largely from public view along the river before it emerges near Douglas Wheel Alignment and Tire.
It then becomes something of a wide sidewalk along Wilkinson Boulevard, where it passes the historic Glen-Willis House and Jim’s Seafood. Within a month, a section of the path will go behind the restaurant so walkers and riders can overlook the Kentucky River at river lock 4, Call said. The path moves away from the road again near Buffalo Trace Distillery.
The opening ceremony was attended by about 40, including members of Walk/Bike Frankfort and numerous officials such as two city commissioners, the state bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, both city parks and recreation co-directors and the head of the Frankfort/Franklin County Tourism and Convention Commission.
Also in attendance was Lois A. Ratliff, whose husband, the late Frankfort businessman and landlord Rodney Ratliff, donated part of the land used for the trail to the city.
Nathan Brown, a member of Walk/Bike Frankfort, gave the last speech in the opening ceremony before the ribbon cutting. Brown was hit by a car last September while biking home along Wilkinson Boulevard from his office on Fair Oaks Lane. The accident, which cracked his sacrum and shattered a vertebra, happened next to a “Share the Road” sign.
“Education only gets you so far and you need infrastructure and you need a built environment that accommodates and encourages the kind of community you want to live in,” Brown said.
He said two things were fairly certain: He would have died without a helmet, and that if the trail existed, he would never have been hit. Brown said the trail represented a community designed around “real people – flesh and blood.”
But he also gave a suggestion: Now that he works across from Kentucky State University, he urged everyone to finish that portion of the trail more quickly. “I don’t want to get hit again, but if I have to…”
After the speech, the crowd moved to the head of the trail. After reading a proclamation from Mayor Gippy Graham naming Sept. 22 in honor of Walk/Bike Frankfort and the trail, Sweger helped unveil the trail sign. Then, he let his son cut the ribbon to represent the next generation that would inherit the trail.
The group then donned their helmets or laced up their walking shoes and took off down the path.