September / 2003
Commonwealths


Doing Kentucky

Fun with the Family in Kentucky—Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids, by Teresa Day, is a great book to keep in your car. It offers one of the most complete collections of things to see and do in all parts of the state. The book lists and describes attractions in each part of Kentucky, including annual event dates, restaurants, lodging, recreation, entertainment, and historical sites. You can ask for the $12.95 book at bookstores or order it through the publisher, The Globe Pequot Press, by phoning (800) 243-0495, or on the Internet at www.globepequot.com.


Giles raffle

A raffle to rehabilitate the home of one of Kentucky’s most popular authors will be held October 4. A wall hanging of the house, quilted by master quilter Denise Stewart of Columbia, will be raffled to raise funds for the Janice Holt Giles log home at Knifley. Raffle tickets are $5 each or $20 for five tickets. They may be purchased at the Web site of the Giles Society at www.gilessociety.org, or by mailing name, address, and phone number along with a check made out to the Giles Society, P.O. Box 932, Columbia, KY 42728.


Volunteer kids

Two students were named the top high school and middle level youth volunteers in Kentucky by the 2003 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Alana Merrill, 18, a senior at Russell County High School, created a karaoke sing-along program that raised more than $1,000 to provide food, clothing, and toys for needy families.

Stephanie Garcia, 14, of Louisville, a member of Northeast 4-H and an 8th-grader at St. Athanasius School, raised more than $20,000 to provide bulletproof vests for 34 police dogs in four states. Hearing the story of a police dog that lost his life protecting his human partner, Stephanie started a project called “Heroes on Paws.” She and a group of volunteers placed donation cans at local businesses, posted flyers, created a Web site, contacted media, organized two “dog walks,” and sold T-shirts and tote bags.

The awards are conducted with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and were created eight years ago by Prudential Financial Inc. to encourage youth volunteerism.


Black bears back

For more than 150 years the American black bear virtually ignored Kentucky’s lush forests. Recently, though, they’ve been venturing back.

David Maehr, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture conservation biologist, says the bears were gone by 1850 after being wiped out by habitat alteration, direct persecution, and hunting.

“We’re witnessing a phenomenon in and around Kingdom Come State Park,” he says.

“The black bear has begun to re-colonize here.”

Maehr is in the second year of a project funded by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He and his assistants have captured about 15 bears and fitted them with radio collars to track their movement and interactions with other black bears and even human habitation.

He says, “So far it’s very encouraging. Last year, five of the females produced cubs and cubs are the real key to the future of the population.”

Maehr says that black bears returning to Kentucky is an indicator of a healthy landscape. “More black bears in Kentucky would reflect very well on Kentucky’s growing appreciation of nature,” he says. “We should recognize that natural qualities and pristine landscapes are economically beneficial to the Commonwealth.”

He adds, though, that with a rise in bear numbers also comes human responsibility. Local residents have to learn how to get along with the new animal.

Maehr says, “Hopefully our research will help the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manage that situation.”
—Aimee D. Heald, UK Extension Services


Describing Thomas Clark

A collection of essays about Thomas Clark offers a fitting way to note the historian’s 100th birthday this past summer. Thomas D. Clark of Kentucky: An Uncommon Life in the Commonwealth provides several views of Clark as an agrarian, Kentuckian, friend, mentor, preservationist, historian, and advocate. Sixteen essayists, including James Klotter, Wade Hall, and John Ed Pearce, contributed to this account of Clark, edited by John E. Kleber and published by the University Press of Kentucky.


Natural gas price warning

The Kentucky Public Service Commission warned consumers that this summer’s high natural gas prices potentially set the stage for another winter of high heating bills.

“All of the major natural gas distributors in the state have told us the same thing,” PSC Executive Director Tom Dorman says. “Gas prices are not going down any time soon, and if we have a cold winter, they could exceed the levels we saw this past heating season.”

With that possibility in mind, the PSC is advising consumers to act now to prepare for the coming heating season.

“This is the time to be winterizing your home,” Dorman says. “It’s also the time to contact your utility about budget billing plans that give you a predictable heating bill every month, so you don’t get hit with unexpectedly high bills in the colder months.”

After meeting with Kentucky gas distribution companies early this summer, the PSC summarized the factors cited as contributing to higher prices:

• Gas storage levels at the end of the last heating season were about one-third below the average for the last five years. This is attributed to increased demand for natural gas this summer as companies sought to replenish storage fields.

• Natural gas production in North America has declined since 2001, while demand is increasing.

• Although the number of drilling rigs at work is increasing, it is not keeping pace with demand. Furthermore, newer wells tend to be less productive.

• Increased use of natural gas to fuel electric generation plants—particularly facilities built to meet summer usage peaks—has increased summer demand, putting upward pressure on prices.

Other steps cited by the PSC as ways to soften the impact of higher gas costs:

• Energy conservation: Simple steps such as turning down thermostats on furnaces (most people are comfortable at 68 degrees) and water heaters (120 degrees is hot enough for nearly all uses) can be big energy savers. Leaving thermostats higher in the summer (in the 75 to 80 degree range) also helps by reducing electric demand and diminishing the need for gas-fired electric generation.

• Energy audits: Many local utilities offer home energy audits at little or no cost to consumers. These audits can identify energy-wasting trouble spots and provide information on how to correct the problems.

• Weatherization: Consumers can do a number of things to reduce inflows of cold air and leakage of warm air, particularly around windows and doors. Weatherization programs for low-income families are available in Kentucky. Many local utilities offer weatherization assistance. A state program is administered by the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children and uses local agencies to provide weatherization assistance.

Contact your local electric co-op for advice on these and other ways to save energy.