A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Plenty of places in the Bluegrass offer gentle ride into the sunset

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

Steve Flairty grew up feeling good about Kentucky. He recalls childhood trips orchestrated by his father, with the take-off points in Campbell County. The people and places he encountered then help define his passion about the state. “Kentucky by Heart” shares part and parcel of his joy. A little history, much contemporary life, intriguing places, personal experiences, special people, book reviews, quotes and even a little humor will, hopefully, help readers connect with their own “inner Kentucky.”

How about the prospects of growing gray in the Commonwealth? Bowling Green and Lexington are on a national list of 25 most favorable places to retire, according to a recent article in Forbes.

Bowling Green, in the western part of Kentucky, is applauded for its vibrant, growing economy and having the benefits of a college town with Western Kentucky University being there. The article mentions that the cost of living in Bowling Green is 11 per cent below the national average and the average home price is only $138,000. It continues by talking about its good tax climate and low crime rate, along with a “high Milken aging rating.”

Similar praise for the economy and being a college town is given for Lexington, in the Bluegrass Region. The article also points out that the city has good “walkability,” strong physician availability and has a high rate of volunteerism.

The college town of Morehead might be another pick for 'most favorable places to retire' in Kentucky. It boasts a nice downtown, Eagle and Cave Run lakes, and Morehead State University, among other attributes. (Photo provided)

The college town of Morehead might be another pick for ‘most favorable places to retire’ in Kentucky. It boasts a nice downtown, Eagle and Cave Run lakes, and Morehead State University, among other attributes. (Photo provided)

A few years back, Smart Money mentioned the towns of Murray and Paducah, both in Western Kentucky, as good retirement areas. The magazine noted of the two that besides being financially viable, recreational opportunities around Murray are grand and Paducah is praised for its arts emphasis.

Depending on interests—and disallowing for having family as reason for picking a retirement or possessing “snowbird” tendencies—I could see consideration for each of the four. In fact, I really like all the towns mentioned. And, in fact again, I’m a retired teacher who lives in Lexington…though I don’t act retired with all the writing activities on my plate. And, in fact again and again, I walk a lot, do some volunteering and have been blessed to have good medical care here. Lexington works for me…at least for now.

But I digress.

That said, and if staying in Kentucky is the objective for retirement living, what might be some other possibilities for that hopefully gradual and gentle ride into the sunset?

Danville is a nice town. It’s relatively small, yet quite large with opportunities to enrich one’s life.

The Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College has national entertainment, as does the nearby Grand Theatre in Lancaster. There are plenty of places to fish or boat, such as Herrington Lake and Cedar Lake in Stanford, about 20 minutes away.

Danville has a highly recognized regional hospital in Ephraim McDowell, and Centre College has an attractive campus used for events such as the annual Great American Brass Band Festival. The sheer number of perks for such a small community as Danville is impressive.

Prospect, part of the Louisville Metro area and called by Wikipedia “Kentucky’s best educated city,” with almost 70 per cent of adults possessing a baccalaureate degree or higher. The community of Prospect has beautiful homes and easy access to the Ohio River and downtown Louisville.

For those who like leisurely trips in the country, the small village of Goshen is a nice area to drive through and not far away are alluring, quaint towns like Peewee Valley, Crestwood, and LaGrange, in Oldham County, with neat little shops and friendly people.

The Elk Lake community in Owen County is a 'fisherman's paradise.' (Photo provided)

The Elk Lake community in Owen County is a ‘fisherman’s paradise.’ (Photo provided)

If your retiring heart is in the mountains, Pike County might be your cup of tea. A much improved road system, the University of Pikeville, an embracing of Appalachian culture with music and art the centerpiece, along with a regional medical center make the Pikeville area one of the better attractions for a long-time and vibrant stay in the eastern part of the state.

Georgia Green Stamper, Lexington, suggested a couple of places in her native Owen County.

“You might look into the small lake community, Elk Lake,” she said. “A good many people have retired there from northern Kentucky, Cincinnati, and other places.” The Elk Lake community, she mentioned, has low living costs and is a “fisherman’s paradise,” and is close to Interstate 71. “Also, take a look at Perry Park on the Kentucky River with a golf course, lakes for fishing, and also easy access to I-71.”

Owen County is in the middle of Kentucky’s Golden Triangle, which refers to the area between Lexington, Louisville, and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky has the largest population and economic growth.

Morehead, on I-64, is a place liked by Wendy Mayo, of Cedar Bluffs, Alabama, who formerly lived in Morehead. “It’s lovely…errands can be taken care of within a few blocks of one another,” she said. “Quiet, nice downtown, not to mention a beautiful campus and Eagle Lake.” The setting for Morehead State University, the town also boasts of nearby Cave Run Lake, a vibrant fishing, boating and hiking resource.

Morehead is also base for the St. Claire Regional Medical Center, the largest rural hospital in northeastern Kentucky, according to its website. The town is within easy driving distance of the city of Ashland.

I talked to others who suggested Louisville, Bronston (Pulaski County) and Bardstown. Nikki Shelly-Mosher, of Nicholasville, talked about a gated community in Garrard County called Hidden Valley. It’s situated around a man-made private lake, a place “where a lovely bunch of people like to relax by the lake with wine, food, and friends.”

My readers can likely come up with more Kentucky retirement spots, as “exhaustive” in no way describes the ones mentioned here. Let me hear your ideas.

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I watched a few girls’ basketball camp sessions, led by Coach Don Lane, at Transylvania University several years ago. Lane coached the men’s team at the school. He strongly emphasized good fundamentals at the camp and many, hearing of the camp’s quality, attended. At the end of each day’s camp session, he gathered the middle school girls together and gave some compelling advice:

“Girls, go home today and do something nice for someone…and don’t tell anyone about it.”

Coach Lane, with that gesture, challenged the youngsters to value character. Part of the teaching was showing love, but, I believe, the other part was about humility.

The coach gave his players much more than basketball skills at the camp. He shared a life lesson to use in any endeavor. I’m told that his son, Brian, who followed him as coach at the school, teaches his players the same lesson.

Keep it up, Lane family!

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Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Read his KyForward and NKyTribune columns for excerpts from all his books. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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