March 2019 Church & State Magazine - March 2019

Kentucky Officials Give Historic State Park To Baptist Church

  Rob Boston

Thanks to inaction by state officials, a historic state park in Kentucky became the property of a Baptist church late last year.

Boone Station State Historic Site in Fayette County had been operated as a small state park for about 20 years. It has now become the property of David’s Fork Baptist Church in Lexington, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader Jan. 29.

The land was given to the state by a man named Robert Channing Strader in his will. The will specified that if the property were not “developed as a historic state park” within 15 years, ownership should revert to the Baptist church he attended.

Although the site has operated as a small park and contains a granite monument, two tobacco barns and some gravesites, state officials argued that they have not been able to develop the land fully “due to a lack of financial resources,” and therefore decided to turn it over to the church.

The site celebrates the life of the famous frontiersman Daniel Boone, who lived in the area for about four years and helped settlers construct cabins.

Preservationists were angered over the move.

“Since the state is willing to give away the home of Daniel Boone, are all Kentucky’s historic sites now on the chopping block?” Phil Gray, a former manager of Boone Station, told the Herald-Leader. “The cost to the state for Boone Station is almost nothing. There is a mowing contract and a very small electric bill each month, upkeep on the fence – but that is it. When history loses, we all lose.”

Leslie Miller, president of the Kentucky chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), agreed, adding, “That historic site is very important to the history of the Commonwealth. We hope that whoever owns the property, now or in the future, will continue to honor the historical significance of that place and continue to share the story of those brave early patriots with the public.”

John Cox, communications director for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet, the state agency that oversees state parks, defended the decision to give away the land.

“Boone Station was an extraordinary case because of Mr. Strader’s will,” Cox said in a statement. “The Commonwealth felt it had an obligation to honor his will because it did not develop the property as the will requires during the 15 years after the executors of Mr. Strader’s estate deeded the property to the state. There have been discussions to deed or lease other parks, but only to other local governments or governmental entities, and only under very specific terms, that those properties remain open to the public as parks.”

Officials at David’s Fork Baptist Church said they don’t yet know what they’ll do with the property.

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