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Group Launches Campaign Against River Fields

A new advocacy group called Kentuckians for Progress is launching what it calls an education campaign that’s critical of the River Fields conservancy. The group claims that River Fields is employing legal tactics to kill construction of a new bridge in easternJefferson County.Kentuckians for Progress is headed by former Jefferson County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson, who says River Fields is trying to litigate the project until it grows so burdensome for taxpayers that it cannot be completed.Jackson’s group has launched a website and is running ads urging people to call River Fields and ask that it drop a federal lawsuit it filed against the project in 2009. "We really want a groundswell in this community to show River Fields that we know what they’re doing. They are delaying, delaying, delaying, delaying and its time to stop delaying, drop the suit and let us progress and move forward," she said. That lawsuit, co-filed with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is currently in mediation. River Fields board chair Lee Cory says the conservancy is being made a scapegoat for the failure of the project’s planners to find sufficient funding for it. "The 2009 lawsuit has nothing to do with any of the delays in the project...to say that is the case is an effort on the part of whoever these people are to create the illusion that the project would be moving forward if River Fields wasn't in the picture, and that is simply not the case," she said. River Fields has contended that a new downtown bridge would sufficiently ease traffic congestion, while an East End bridge would be environmentally destructive. Full statement from River Fields' Lee Cory: This campaign is designed to make River Fields into a scapegoat for the failure of a project that is collapsing of its own weight. It is designed to intentionally delude the public into believing that the Bridges Project is moving forward. Right now River Fields or no River Fields, law suit or no law suit, there is not enough money to build this project. The law suit has nothing to do with delays in the project. The FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) is requiring the Supplemental Environmental Impact Study because the Governors of Kentucky and Indiana and the Mayor of Louisville suggested new plans. A law suit filed in 2009 is nothing new. The parties, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation who is the lead plaintiff, and River Fields are in mediation. Founded in 1959, River Fields is one of the oldest land conservation citizens groups in the country. With over 2,000 members from throughout the region, we have preserved 2,200 acres for the public forever, including Shelby Trails Park, a 400 acre park that opens next week. The claims on the website and in the newspaper ad are misleading. The reason the project is not moving forward is that there is not enough money.

Rick Howlett is host of WFPL's weekly talk show, "In Conversation." Email Rick at rhowlett@lpm.org.