Monday, May 19, 2014


Lately I’ve been busy at work.  The organization I work for went from a Planning staff of three to uno.  That uno is me.  Our Land Use Planner left to go work for KYTC and a couple of weeks later our Senior Planner resigned.  While I’m the Transportation Planner, I am also the only person on staff with formal Planning experience.  Therefore I became the de facto interim DIY Land Use Planner as well.

During the mass exodus I received my denial/approval to sit for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam.  I was initially denied based on my response to one of the qualification criteria, but that particular response had previously been accepted, so after my outraged protests I was approved.  It was a two-edged blessing.  While I was happy to be able to take the exam, I had less than two months to prepare.

And then my occupational ecosystem crashed.  Too much was due all at once, and I had no one to rely upon to help my paddle away from the end-of-the-month cataract deadline.  During that last week of April I was seriously in danger of losing my ever-loving mind.  I persevered.  And now I have some breathing room in May.

My exam date is May 27.  They say successful exam-takers study 80 to 100 hours in preparation.  I have two weeks before the exam and have studied not one whit.  I’m hoping I can reschedule the exam to November.  I wasn’t aware that the possibility existed before yesterday morning.

I attended the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association’s (KAPA) annual conference at General Butler State Park near Carrollton.  Initially I had intended to attend the various general sessions offered at the conference, and then I noticed that all day each day there was a marathon AICP exam prep session.  I had to go to that.  I couldn’t justify skipping the prep sessions.

On a side note, I was also there two accept two awards for plans created by my organization.  I was primary collaborator in an environmental justice study that won for small jurisdiction.  But it was actually an acceptance speech by Judge-Executive Henry Bertram of Pendleton County after he received an award for outstanding civic/elected official that stuck with me.  His county isn't in Eastern Kentucky, but he encouraged all of the planners in the room to do what they could to reach out to Eastern Kentucky and try to get ahead of the curve as coal ceases to be the primary economic factor in the region.  It got me thinking.

At lunch the speaker made a good case for marrying planning and public health.  One of my cohorts from KYTC spoke up and the conversation about public health and transportation got me thinking hard.  I've still got some processing to do, but I think this is really a key equation.

Thursday after the sessions were over I went back to the room, changed into my running clothes, and took off for the lake trail.  All of the other trails in the park are currently closed for maintenance, which is why I didn't take the mountain bike.  I had a good run, but I'm just really out of shape.  It wasn't as enjoyable as I would have liked for it to be.

I had dinner at Down on Main Street in CarrolltonCarrollton is an Ohio River town and is quite picturesque. Down on Main Street has a phenomenal $6 burger.  I wandered around taking pictures after eating before I returned to the state park lodge for the night.

Downtown Carrollton

Carrollton and the Ohio

In the room as I was planning my return route home I realized Carrollton is only 13 miles from Port Royal.  Port Royal in Henry County—as you certainly know—is the home of Wendell Berry.  How could I not swing through ole Wendell's town and gamble on bumping into one of my favorite authors?  

Port Royal, KY

Friday morning I finished up my AICP session and headed home by way of Port Royal.  I was passing through Jayber Crow country.  I didn't see Mr. Berry leaving the post office, or heading into Rick’s Farm Center and Restaurant for lunch.  That's okay, it was still cool to see the little town.

As I made my way home I pondered the public health/transportation connection.  After the lunch speaker was finished on Thursday I went and chatted with my KYTC colleague.  By the time he and I spoke I'd made some additional connections in my mind with the comments made by the Pendleton County Judge.  No matter the will or intentions in Eastern Kentucky there are practical barriers to a robust bike-ped infrastructure network.  Even of you could overcome the socio-economic and cultural roadblocks you'd still have the topography to deal with.  And that's no easy obstacle to overcome.

After I returned home Mandy and I were talking and she pointed out that in Eastern Kentucky you're not likely to get public support for active mobility infrastructure by making the tourism case.  And she's right.  Eastern Kentuckians aren't going to get behind projects primarily designed to bring Buckeyes and Hoosiers through their backyards.  If we're ever gong to build big regional greenways or even small local trail systems we're going to have to do it for ourselves and by ourselves.  If it attracts furriners and their money then that will be an added bonus.

But first we have to find ways to get ourselves of of the mire of leading the nation in smoking, obesity, childhood obesity, heart disease, etc, etc. by taking the reins of our own destinies.

The key connection I made was that we need to stop saying we'll be healthy when we change our lifestyles and start making time to exercise, and instead say that we'll change our lifestyles by employing our own human power to provide as much of our daily energy needs as possible.  We need to abstain from being dependent upon machines to satisfy our whims.  Work should cease to be work and begin to be an end unto itself; a dignified activity that we can feel good about.

The third plan that won an award from KAPA was a plan for "everyday trails" in a Louisville neighborhood.  The intent of the project was to create trails that people could use to get where they need to go.  Everyday trails.  And that was the final piece.  Instead of working to provide places for people to go when they're taking time out of their lives to exercise we've got to integrate exercise back into our lives.  We've got to work to provide linkages that will give us the right kind of options that make our lives easier while taxing our muscles.

Let's change the status quo.  Let's change the paradigm. And let's stop segregating the maintenance of our health from living our lives.


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