Jun 012013
 

On the Fayette commons, part 3

By Danny Mayer

Don’t look to me for virtue, for high-minded feats or elevated speech that flows in a stream of lustrous silver—when cutting is my nature, meandering my path. Find me instead lowdown, landscape in tow as I take the way of least resistance, draining the uplands, purging the slopes.

From “The river issues a statement regarding its watery ethos,” by Richard Taylor

The Scape/Landscape Architecture design plan entitled “Reviving Town Branch” presents a compelling vision for a linear downtown urban park. The plan divides the Lexington, Kentucky, Town Branch watershed into four design phase/areas: Reveal (Rupp Arena), Clean (Vine Street to CentrePointe), Carve (CentrePoint to Thoroughbread Park), and Connect (the lower East End to Isaac Murphy Park).

Map from http://www.townbranchcommons.com/

Map from http://www.townbranchcommons.com/

The Scape map, like all maps of the area, lends itself to a certain reading. The stream’s textual and cartographic flow, Reveal/Clean/Carve/Connect, makes movement from left to right, upstream, seem natural. Reading it, one might assume that Town Branch’s source flows from a revealed Rupp, passes through a cleansed then carved downtown, and thence arrives, trickled-down rainfall depending, to a textually disconnected Isaac Murphy park.

To get Town Branch, or at least to get a different Town Branch, one that takes hydrology and history as its compass axes, it seems one must read the map backwards: from right to left, downstream, East End headwaters to Distillery District emergence, connection to carve, and thence to clean and reveal. What follows is a stab at that downhill backwards reading, what I’ve been calling (with many thanks to High Bridge river rat Wes Houp) “Town Branch by rheotaxis.” ~ d Continue reading »

Jun 012013
 

Town Branch by rheotaxis, part 1

By Danny Mayer

Kentucke, once bloody ground, hunting Eden for native tongues apologetically eliminating buffalo for sustenance. Not sport or profit or pleasure.

–Frank X Walker

In the spring of ‘79, a pack of colonialists led by Colonel Robert Patterson exited their fort at Harrod’s Town, a bleak wooden western outpost incised into the recently formed Fincastle County of post-colonial Virginia, with orders to establish a garrison inside the vast canelands that temptingly rolled north off the palisades that lined the far banks of the Kentucky River.

For the Pennsylvania men exiting Fort Harrod, as for the North Carolinians immigrating to Fort Boonesborough and Saint Asaphs, dominion over the rich north land lying between the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers had proven particularly difficult. Shawnee, Mingo, Miami, and a clutch of other area residents had for some time made homes along several of the south-running Ohio River tributaries that debauched into La Belle Riviere from the north. These groups still claimed the commonwealth as a commonland, a hunting and commerce grounds held in usufruct by Indian, some French, and the odd colonial shareholder. Encroachment on the commons by tree-hacking, game-destroying, compass-wielding Pennsylvanians, Virginians, and North Carolinians had met some resistance. For the half decade preceding Patterson’s historic northern incursion, a cartographic truce had emerged: to the south of the protective girdle of the Kentucky River, colonists; to the north of the Ohio, Indians; and in between, the canelands.

From the General Dallas comic strip "The quest for the Dixie Belle" by Tim Staley.

From the General Dallas comic strip “The quest for the Dixie Belle” by Tim Staley.

Continue reading »