Gary Heffelfinger has a secret hobby: If a thoughtfully planted pot of flowers pops up in downtown Bowling Green with no apparent explanation, you probably have Heffelfinger to thank.
And if you’ve been at the corner of East Main Avenue and College Street recently, you might have seen his latest project – a vegetable garden he inspired the downtown community to help create.
In the spring, the city of Bowling Green began a two-year process to renovate downtown. The city is replacing sidewalks in the area and will eventually conduct landscaping work to increase green space adjacent to Fountain Square Park’s leafy center.
But this summer, the square’s surrounding greenery beds faded into three-foot weeds as concrete would soon be poured in its place.
In May, Heffelfinger and a few other residents of apartments overlooking Fountain Square Park discussed their sadness about the dead garden beds temporarily lining the streets. They joked about building a community garden.
The next day, Heffelfinger set to work on bringing life back to the street. Within hours, other residents showed up with vegetables and motivation to better their community.
Seven weeks later, this pet project boasts jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, maize, eggplant and herbs – and seemingly many grateful residents and visitors in downtown Bowling Green.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” Heffelfinger said.
Heffelfinger, a longtime U.S. Postal Service carrier, moved downtown from Barren County about eight months ago and brought sunshine, smiles and a rainbow of florals with him.
Before his latest undertaking, Heffelfinger personally purchased pots and flowers and carefully designed arrangements to fit the theme of downtown businesses – check out the flowers in front of WDNS and Permanent Paint Tattoo and Fine Art Studios for examples.
But this time, Heffelfinger wasn’t alone in his effort.
Downtown residents Ashley Bowers, her husband, Tripp Bowers, and their four children helped plant the vegetable garden as well as flowers in two other empty beds on Main Avenue.
The Bowers’ children, ages 5 to 13, also helped create the signs for the garden, such as “Don’t maize me bro” and “Grow old with me.”
Ashley Bowers captioned one sign with “Community Garyden” to show Heffelfinger – who she calls the city’s “ghost planter” – a small token of appreciation.
This was her first time participating in urban gardening.
“The first time he pulled out vegetables, I thought he was joking and went to the store,” she said.
Heffelfinger and the downtown gardening gang understand the vegetable garden is not a permanent fixture. As soon as the city finishes paving State Street, they’ll move over to Main Avenue.
“We’re having fun with it while we can,” Heffelfinger said.
Bowers appreciates that folks in Bowling Green have been very respectful of the garden, and she hopes the community garden can live – in some shape or form – beyond its planned expiration date.
“We want it to grow,” Bowers said. “No pun intended.”
In the past couple of weeks, a business owner on the square informed Heffelfinger that people were taking zucchini from the patch.
“I told him that’s great,” he said. “It’s a community garden. That’s the idea.”
Diane Taylor, the co-owner of Little Fox Bakery, has actually used the garden’s basil in her red bell pepper scones and some jalapeños in a cupcake after she learned the garden was indeed intended for the community. She has also used mint for her iced tea at home.
“I love it. It’s wonderful to be able to walk down there and pick herbs,” Taylor said. “Even If I wasn’t using it for my personal use, I just enjoy walking by it.”
Jim Sears, a downtown resident who works at Morris Jewelry and has helped water the garden, suggested that his store routinely serves as a hub for out-of-town visitors inquiring about directions, where to park and where to eat – and lately, about the community garden.
Because when people drive in town, they’ll be visiting downtown. And when they see something like a community vegetable garden, they’ll get a better sense of Bowling Green’s “coolness factor,” Sears said.
“There’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t ask about it,” he said.
Or take pictures of it.
– Follow reporter Caroline Eggers on Twitter @eggers dailynews or visit bgdaily news.com.
A prefiled bill in the Kentucky General Assembly is aimed at appropriating funds needed to advance the progress of a long-sought veterans nursing home in Bowling Green.
Bill Request 125 calls for setting aside $2.5 million from the state’s rainy day fund or year-end surplus in fiscal year 2019 to finish the design and preconstruction phases of the Bowling Green Veterans Center, steps that must be complete before millions more in federal and state money can be accessed.
Twelve southcentral Kentucky representatives, including all serving Warren County – Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, who prefiled the bill; Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green; Steve Sheldon, R-Bowling Green; Jason Petrie, R-Elkton; Steve Riley, R-Glasgow; and Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville – are co-sponsoring the bill.
“To bring a resource like this to Bowling Green, to assist our aging veterans, it’s something that so many people want,” Minter said.
Minter said the nursing home would be an assisted-living facility capable of catering to veteran-specific needs such as treatment for the lingering effects of Agent Orange exposure.
“These are some very specific needs that they have,” she said.
While there is a VA clinic in Bowling Green and the VA Medical Center in Nashville, there is no nearby nursing home for veterans, Minter said. “The piece that we don’t have is a veterans nursing home,” she said.
A few years ago, a study commissioned by the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs determined that a 20-county area surrounding Bowling Green had the highest need for such a facility, with about 40,000 veterans in southcentral Kentucky.
In August 2017, Gov. Matt Bevin signed House Bill 13 into law, allocating $10.5 million in state bond funds for the nursing home project. The facility would have 90 beds and cost $30 million, the Daily News reported at the time.
Stone said Bowling Green is a great location for such a facility. “We have a lot of veterans in our area and it flows over into Tennessee,” he said. “It’s a good place for a nursing home in general and certainly one dedicated to our veterans.”
Meredith said he’s trying to get the $2.5 million in order to complete the project’s design work, a necessary step before the project can receive $19.5 million from the federal government and $10.5 million from the state that will cover the $30 million construction cost.
Meredith said the Bowling Green nursing home is on a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs list of projects slated for funding and has moved up the list faster than anticipated. Meredith said funding could potentially be secured in 2020 or 2021.
– Follow Daily News reporter Jackson French on Twitter @Jackson_French or visit bgdailynews.com.
RUSSELLVILLE – Demetrius Roberson, who is charged with murder and other counts in the 2016 shooting of Lexus Bell, has no attorney representing him after a judge declined to hear a motion to reconsider his earlier decision to remove Roberson’s defense team from the case.
Roberson’s trial on charges of murder, attempted murder, first-degree robbery and nine counts of first-degree wanton endangerment was postponed this month after his court-appointed attorneys indicated on the morning of the trial that they would not be ready to proceed and did not feel they could effectively represent him.
Logan Circuit Judge Tyler Gill ordered the attorneys, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy capital trial lawyers Michael Bufkin and Audrey Woosnam, to be removed from the case.
That decision was made after the attorneys said they had been unable to review digital evidence files despite having them in their possession for several months and had not interviewed a number of witnesses. Bufkin’s disclosure that the defense team hadn’t interviewed those witnesses was made on the morning the trial was set to begin and wasn’t included in any motions to delay the trial.
Gill threatened the attorneys with contempt of court charges and excoriated the defense team in a written order, saying the circumstances “threaten the integrity of the whole legal system.”
“Serious and swift consequences should be imposed upon the defense attorneys and any others responsible for this fiasco in the public defender system,” said Gill’s order, which was filed July 8. “If this was a stunt to be used in the legislative process to seek money, it should not be permitted to work. ... If counsel can filibuster a trial without consequence, the court system is made useless.”
The order also cited psychological reports and the judge’s prior questioning of Roberson in noting that Roberson believed his legal team was incompetent, dismissive of him and working against him.
Gill appointed Nathan Beard, a trial attorney in the DPA’s Hopkinsville office, to represent Roberson, but Beard said a conflict of interest prevented him from taking on the case.
Prior to Thursday’s hearing, attorney Eric Stovall, assistant general counsel for the DPA’s Madisonville office, filed a motion to allow the DPA to intervene and a motion to reconsider the order removing Woosnam and Bufkin from the case.
Stovall argued in his motion to reconsider that Gill lacked sufficient evidence that communications between Roberson and his attorneys had broken down completely, characterizing Roberson’s complaints about his defense team as amounting to “general dissatisfaction and more likely the result of stress of leading up to trial.”
In court Thursday, Stovall requested a hearing on the motion to reconsider but was met with several questions from Gill about the motion.
Answering a question from the judge, Stovall said he acted under the authority of DPA’s general counsel at its main office in Frankfort and was not sure whether Public Advocate Damon Preston, who heads the state DPA, knew about the motion or the circumstances behind the removal of Bufkin and Woosnam.
Logan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Neil Kerr opposed holding a hearing to reconsider the removal of Roberson’s defense team, stressing he wanted to avoid having a potential conviction reversed on appeal and the case retried.
“What has happened up to July 8 cannot be fixed,” Kerr said. “I don’t see how we can repair that attorney/client relationship.”
Gill ultimately declined to consider the motion to reconsider, finding that Stovall lacked the authority to make the motion. “I’m embarrassed that you have been put in this position,” Gill told Stovall before excusing him.
Gill also criticized Bufkin and Woosnam for their “lack of candor” with the court during the preparation for trial, noting that he had authorized $130,000 for the defense team to use, $60,000 of which has been spent on investigation into the question of Roberson’s guilt or innocence.
The judge, who is retiring at the end of this month, also said it would be possible for a local private attorney to be appointed to represent Roberson, financed by the state.
A hearing was set for Aug. 15.
“I think the grand jury should investigate what happened with the money spent in this case,” Gill said.
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.
Signs of Bowling Green’s new golf driving range are filling the sky, as 50-foot poles and netting are being installed at the Golf Course at Riverview.
The city-owned facility on the north side of Bowling Green has been closed this summer for renovations to the course and construction of the only driving range in the city.
Both the course and the driving range are on track to open this year, city Parks and Recreation Director Brent Belcher said.
“We’ve had no issues. We’ve been happy with the progress,” he said.
The facelift for the course comes after months of discussion by city officials concerned with the dwindling number of rounds played at Riverview in recent years.
At the Bowling Green City Commission work session in March, numerous golfers told commissioners they would use the Riverview course if it was in better condition. Opened in 1969, the nine-hole facility is the oldest of the three city-owned courses.
Ultimately, the city decided renovating the course and building a driving range on the property was the best option to increase usage.
Part of the land at Riverview is also being converted to a pay-to-play 18-hole disc golf course to be operated by Combat Disc Golf, a private entity.
An Alabama contractor is currently erecting the poles and netting for the driving range, which is “about a three-week process,” Belcher said.
New grass for the course’s greens has also been planted, a new irrigation system is being installed and much of what remains to be done is basic course preparation.
The facility “has been a construction site for several months. Converting it back is not an overnight achievement,” he said.
The city is working with a budget of about $739,000 for the entire project, which started this spring. Some of the costs would be recouped by the city from driving range revenue and increased use of the course.
“I think we’ll be right on that number,” Belcher said.
An opening sometime before the end of 2019 is on track.
That opening won’t come soon enough.
The closing of the city’s third course has led to some long waits at the city’s other courses – the 18-hole CrossWinds Golf Course on Wilkinson Trace and the 9-hole Paul Walker Golf Course on Covington Street.
“Both courses have seen a high percentage increase. It has resulted in some back-up play,” Belcher said, adding that such a scenario is a good problem for the city to have.
“It’s never bad to be busy,” he said. It shows “the public is interested in playing golf.”
Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said he hopes the trend continues. “I hope (the renovations) will mean a resurgence of people using the course and using the driving range,” he said.
– Follow News Director Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.