Bats put huge horse park racing project on hold

From the Publisher Jay Nolan
From the Publisher
Jay Nolan

You may remember earlier this year Keeneland announced they were building a new quarter horse racetrack in Knox County.  Construction on this $30+ million dollar venue was scheduled to start in late August.

So, when October rolled around and there was still no activity at the site, we started asking questions. What is keeping them from getting this thing started? The answer we got almost made my jaw drop!

Believe it or not, one huge holdup is a bat. We are not talking a regular bat you might see on a Halloween poster,  oh no.  Specifically, the critter holding up progress for  Keeneland is the federally protected Indiana Bat.

It seems the Knox County industrial park, the site for the newly-named Cumberland Run racetrack and entertainment complex, apparently provide habitat for one or more Indiana bats.

Vince Gabbert, Chief Operation Officer for Keeneland, told Knox Judge Executive JM Hall, “Evidently, the Bat has precedence over a number of things, and we have to wait on the bats to move elsewhere before we can begin any land development.”   Federal rules protecting the bat’s habitat are so restrictive that a federal road expansion of I-65 near Bowling Green was halted earlier this year because of this same type of Bat.

Fortunately for our region, Gabbert also says “Our fervor and enthusiasm for this project has not waned and we are excited about our future in Corbin…We really appreciate your patience as we make sure everything is correct and this becomes the project that we all want it to be for Corbin, Knox County, Keeneland, and the entire region.”

Of course Keeneland is also hosting the prestigious Breeder’s Cup. This world-class event is being held at their Lexington facility this fall.  Gabbert admitted to me that the Breeder’s Cup “has definitely increased our workload.” But, he maintains it is “all the bureaucratic hurdles and approvals” including, the Indiana Bat issue, that is holding up progress.

So Congressman Rogers, here’s another one for your list.  Once again federal polices from the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington DC are hurting Knox County and our entire region. Instead of putting contractors to work, generating jobs, and boosting the regional economy, we are literally waiting for bats to move.

I think the system is off the rails when the government is more committed to taking care of a few bats than providing jobs that could put food on the table for families in Eastern Kentucky.

What do you think?