Happy trails in Shelby

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By Lisa King

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Hundreds of visitors turned out Sunday for the dedication of Shelby County’s newest park, Shelby Trails.

Located on Aiken Road at the northwestern limit of Todds Point, this 400-acre equestrian park and nature preserve will feature a 22-mile riding trail and several shorter ones when it opens to the public next spring.

So on Sunday, with a backdrop of a barbecue feast and toe-tapping Bluegrass music by Kentucky Blue, Shelby County officials held a ceremony to honor Roger and Diane Shott of Anchorage, who donated their horse farm to the Shelby County Parks Board.

The Shotts had been working for years with parks board officials to iron out the details of their donation, under stipulations that the property be left as natural as possible and used for an equestrian/nature preserve.

At Sunday’s dedication, the story of that mission was unveiled, as several officials put in their pieces of tale and honored the Shotts’ generosity.

Parks and Recreation Director Clay Cottongim opened with the story of how the relationship evolved between the couple and the county and how he worked with them to keep the whole thing a secret for years until they were ready to make the donation.

He added that he now he would do his best to make sure the park is used like the couple wanted, as a nature preserve and for horse back riding.

Magistrate Hubert Pollett, who also is chairman of the parks board, talked about the first time he met the couple.

He said the Shotts, now in their 70s, initially had wanted to wait until they passed away to donate the land, which they for decades had been using for trail riding.

“I had a meeting with Diane Shott and was expecting to see a little old lady in a wheelchair, and she came up on a horse and swung herself down from the saddle, and I thought, ‘My Gosh, she’s going to outlive us all,” he said.

After the laughter died down, County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger talked about how Pollett and Cottongim told him the park might need a little money for maintenance.

“I said, ‘Well, I can drive a tractor,’” he said with a laugh.

Magistrate Michael Riggs said he was thrilled to be at the very first event ever held at the park.

And after receiving plaques of appreciation from the parks board  and Shelby County Fiscal Court and being designated honorary Kentucky Colonels, the Shotts each spoke.

It was Roger Shott who summed up the reason he and his wife decided to donate the land to the county for a park.

“When push comes to shove, neither one of us could see this farm become just another row of houses,” he said.

To ensure how that will happen, the agreement between the Shotts and the county employs Riverfields, a conservation agency, to oversee the concept.

Meme Sweets Runyon, head of a Riverfields, said her group would work with the parks board to set guidelines on how the property can be used to ensure those concepts comply with the Shotts’ wishes.

And after all the words had been spoken, about two dozen people did what the park is designed to provide: They mounted up and took off on a trail ride along the ridges.

Still dozens more jumped on a hayride and saw some of this tract of rolling and pristine land.

And that’s just as the Shotts wanted you to do.