Off The Record: Parkway name game has gone too far

October 06, 2003|HERB BROCK

Most governors end their terms handing out pardons. Paul Patton is ending his eight years renaming parkways.

And the governor is finding out that giving pardons to convicted felons maybe less controversial than changing the names of parkways.

The latest road to get a new name is the Bluegrass Parkway. It is now the Martha Layne Collins Parkway, named after Kentucky's governor from 1983-87. The Collins administration is looking better and better with each passing year, especially when compared to the administration of the governor who ordered the parkway renamed in her honor. With or without a parkway named in her honor, the Toyota plant in Georgetown will forever be a monument to her economic-development legacy.

But I've heard some folks around here, many of whom use the parkway, fuming. It's not so much that Patton has honored Collins. It's that he's changing a name that has been so familiar to so many Central Kentucky motorists for so many years.


It may take at least a generation for people in this part of Kentucky to get used to the new name. It's going to cause problems in the all-important matter of giving directions.

We creatures-of-habit Kentuckians have a hard enough time giving directions as it is. Let's put it this way: Do you know any Kentuckians ever hired by AAA? We rarely use state or county road numbers. We always use landmarks, like Billy Bob's tobacco barn on the left and Tommy Thompson's two-holer on the right.

And calling a major road a new name? Forget it. Now, we're expected to remember that that four-laner from Versailles to Elizabethtown has a new name and we're supposed to remember what it is? If we tell someone from around here or someone with an old Rand McNally to take the Martha Layne Collins Parkway, they won't know what we're talking about. We'll have to spend more breath and a second sentence giving the parkway's new name.

But whatever controversy develops over the Bluegrass Parkway - I mean Martha Layne Collins Parkway - will be a camp fire compared to the bonfire still blazing over Patton's decision to rename the Daniel Boone Parkway.

After Abraham Lincoln, Boone arguably is the most famous American whose life is tied to Kentucky. Any American who got a "C" in grade school U.S. history has heard of both Lincoln and Boone and most know of their historic connections to Kentucky. Abe was born here and went on to become president. Dan'l was born in Pennsylvania and went on to blaze trails here.

Lincoln's fame was made in Washington. Thus, how fitting it was for the federal government to build a memorial there in his name. Boone's fame was made in Eastern Kentucky. Thus, how fitting it was for the federal government to build a modern trail here in his name.

A lot of people are fit to be tied over the renaming decision, even though Patton is trying to put out the fire by offering to put Boone's name on part of U.S. 25, which follows a section of Boone's trail through the mountains.

Sure, Rogers helped get the federal government to retire bonds used to finance construction of the parkway and that enabled the state to remove the toll booths. And Rogers has done a good job overall representing the folks of Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky.

But Hal Rogers is no Dan'l Boone. He's not even a John Sherman Cooper, and there is no major road named after arguably the most admired, revered and beloved Kentucky U.S. senator in modern state history.

Maybe it would be easier if Kentucky were like our neighbor to the east. West Virginia just names everything after one person.

West Virginia apparently has not produced a single nationally-famous person, unless you count John Denver. But while Denver sang about the "mountain mama," he was mothered out West.

The Hatfield Clan - that is, the remaining family that hasn't been riddled with bullets by the McCoys of Kentucky - are famous, but as a group. Roads and building generally are named after individuals, not clans, particularly murderous ones.

Thus, the honor of being the single, most famous West Virginian falls by default to U.S. Sen. Bob Byrd. He's a native of North Carolina and was a member of a clan - that is, a Klan - even more notorious than the Hatfields or the McCoys but he's made a name for himself by outliving and out-pork-barrelling most of his colleagues. The citizens have thanked their senior senator by naming just about every parkway, as well as park bench and parking lot, after the old Byrd.

There is the junior senator of the state, Jay Rockefeller. He's from a famous family, but like Byrd, he's also a carpetbagger. Besides, he's not been in the Senate 50 years or doesn't bring home much pork, largely because his partner is hogging most of it.

But Kentucky is so blessed with so many famous people, we likely don't have enough roads, buildings or outhouses to honor all our notables. Still, here are just a few more Patton can consider on his renaming spree:

Central Kentucky News Articles