Regs would restrict Adventure Tourism on Farmland

May 29, 2013

Zip line enthusiasts lobby council members at Lexington city hall.
Credit Stu Johnson / WEKU News

Hoping to promote and regulate adventure tourism in rural areas, a Lexington work group has proposed a series of zoning restrictions.  During dozens of public meetings, the working group discussed the need for green space, the potential of eco and agri-tourism, and the environmental consequences.  Vice Mayor Linda Gorton created the panel

“We look at ways to open up opportunities for recreational and tourism without ruining what we have that’s good,” said Gorton.

But there’s disagreement over the dividing line.  In trying to protect what’s good, at least one business owner contends Lexington’s zoning laws could become too restrictive.

Ignoring orders from city planners, Boone Creek Adventures operates a zip line near the Kentucky River in the Palisades area.  Planners argue the business violates current zoning laws.  But, owner Burgis Carey defends the operation….saying the income will help preserve the rural setting.

“If we don’t give all farmers, large and small, as many tools available to preserve their green space and to productively and sustainably manage their land, we will lose that opportunity,” said Carey.

Instead of seeing his zip-line as an amusement park ride, Carey argues it focuses more on environmental education…and allows tourists to explore central Kentucky’s leafy canopy.  Carey says the proposed rules would force him to lobby for a change in his rural zone…so zip lines are allowed.

Don Robinson, who’s a third generation farmer, chaired the city’s working group.  Robinson worries such zip lines could damage agriculture…with tourists scaring livestock and interfering with farm operations.   While Robinson agrees zip lines are appropriate in some rural areas, agricultural zones should be off limits.

“Not in the farm area, not in the AR zone, perhaps in the AN.  And there are opportunities inside the urban service boundary.  I mean, in Louisville, I think there is one in a rock quarry.  So there is opportunity for zip lines,” added Robinson.

Robinson says the zoning restrictions, as proposed, will protect Fayette County’s horse industry.   The measure now goes to Lexington’s planning commission for further consideration.