Bluegrass Cultural Landscape of Kentucky

World Monuments Watch
Kentucky, United States

2006 World Monuments Watch

Covering an area of some 3,000 square kilometers, the Bluegrass Region is one of America’s most distinctive landscapes. Named for the color of its calcium- and phosphate-enriched grass, the region was inhabited by indigenous peoples before Europeans settled in the 1780s. By the mid-nineteenth century, agrarian-based industries such as tobacco farming and bourbon distillation sprang up there, along with breeding and racing of prized horses.

In recent decades, the region has witnessed rapid suburbanization through unregulated development. Between 1997 and 2002, more than 300 square kilometers of Bluegrass land were appropriated for other uses, compromising the region’s distinct sense of place and undermining traditional industries such as horse breeding and farming, and endangering historic structures associated with the landscape.

In order to raise awareness about these issues and support the work of local advocates defending the preservation of this unique American landscape, the Bluegrass region of Kentucky was included on the 2006 World Monuments Watch.

Since the Watch

In 2007 an exhibition titled “The Vanishing Bluegrass” took place in the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, addressing the issues of land conservation and regional planning. The exhibition was organized by the University of Kentucky, College of Design, in collaboration with other groups that had helped nominate the site to the Watch. Drawings about the meaning of the Bluegrass, created by schoolchildren in central Kentucky, were also exhibited.  Although development pressures slowed down during the recession, they have increased since then. A public debate has begun ahead of Lexington’s 2018 comprehensive land-use plan update. Local advocates are concerned about an expansion of the Urban Service Boundary in the city, which would have an impact in the whole Bluegrass Region.

Last updated: December 2016.

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