The Licking River begins with a whimper on its 300-mile plus journey north from headwaters in the mountains of Kentucky to its crescendo as it converges with the Ohio River at metro Cincinnati. Veteran reporter Andy Mead undertook his journey in an aluminum canoe, braving the elements on and off over more than a year, to experience himself the good, the bad, the ugly and the spectacular of a river that runs through nearly every culture, geography, economy, environment and society known to its home state. Along the way he talked to dozens of experts – from ecologists, scientists and environmentalists to historians, farmers and fisherman – and met dozens of real Kentuckians whose lives are entwined with the river. Thanks to support from the Northern Kentucky University Ecological Stewardship Institute, the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism, the UK Scripps Howard First Amendment Center and KyForward.com for making possible the story of this incredible river.
The Licking River: Beauty, mud, trash and history — and sightings of magnificent bald eagles
Frequent rises in water levels downstream of Cave Run Lake mean the banks of the Licking River often are muddy. (Photo by Andy Mead)
By Andy Mead
KyCPSJ Senior Reporting Fellow
FARMERS – Our May journey from the headwaters of the Licking River and across Cave Run Lake had been interrupted by high water below the dam that creates the lake, but we watched river levels and weather reports, and decided to resume on a Monday morning in early June.
Fellow traveler Ken Cooke and I were joined for this leg of the trip by Bruce Hutcheson, a self-described “old computer geek at IBM,” and his 15-year-old son Kevin, a budding herpetologist. Like us, they were in a 14-foot canoe with a small outboard.
We arrived at the put-in below the dam to find people from the fish hatchery releasing two tanker truckloads of trout.
The water level was low. Ken said that meant we would be in danger of hitting more logs and submerged rocks, and could scrape the bottom of gravel bars as we rushed through riffles. He had brought six extra sheer pins for the propellers. Sheer pins are designed to break if the propeller hits something. The idea is that the propeller won’t be damaged and the pins can easily be replaced.
Lone Survivor: Licking keeps trying to carry Jones Grocery away
By Andy Mead
KyCPSJ Senior Reporting Fellow
SHERBURNE – You can’t usually see the Licking River from Jones Grocery, but Carolyn Jones knows there’s trouble when it leaves its banks and shows up in the street outside the store.
“There’s no sense in worrying about it – until it starts crossing the road,” she said.
The river has crossed the road – and come inside – many times since the old general store was built sometime around 1900.
“The last time was in May 2010,” Jones said. “The water was seven-foot and five inches in here. In ’97 it was higher than that – seven-foot and nine inches, but it didn’t do as much damage.”
The store has flooded so often that the Fleming County Fiscal Court wanted to use federal funds to buy the building and tear it down. It wants to do the same with several of the remaining houses in the once-bustling town of Sherburne.
“It will give these people the opportunity to sell their real estate for a fair market price and relocate,” Fleming County Judge-executive Larry H. Foxworthy said.
The plan was for the store, like the other buildings, to be replaced by green space that will be owned by the county.
But Lawrence Jones, Carolyn’s husband, turned down an offer for his nearby home and opted out of the program, so no offer was made on the store, said Kristi Dodge at the Buffalo Trace Area Development District, which administers the buyout program for the county. Carolyn Jones said the offer for the home was turned down because it was too low. “We weren’t going to give it to them,” she said.
As for the store: “I’m still here,” she said.
But the future of Jones Grocery is uncertain. What is certain is that the old store, the last of what once were five general stores in Sherburne, is fading away.
And, like the town itself, it is a shadow of what it once was.
The years and the frequent river incursions have taken their toll. The concrete block foundation, added after a flood long ago, is cracked and bowed. The walls and floors sag this way and that. Some siding has rotted away. Jacks have been installed to hold up the second floor, which used to be living quarters and now is used for storage.
One of the things you might notice when approaching Jones Grocery is that there is no sign outside that says it is, well, Jones Grocery.
“I’ve never had a sign since I’ve been here,” Carolyn said. “I don’t need it. People know where I’m at.”
The Joneses have run the business for 26 years, and Carolyn Jones said her aunt ran it for 29 years before that. For years, the Joneses kept the store open from 7:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night, seven days a week.
“I was getting too old for that and I quit,” Carolyn Jones said. Now Lawrence works at a Kroger supermarket in Mount Sterling, and Carolyn is only at the family store from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., six days a week.
The shelves are mostly empty of groceries. On a visit last year, for example, there was only one bottle of Heinz Ketchup, only one can of Bush’s black beans. Only the top shelf is crowded, with old photographs and with clocks, cake pans and various other treasures collected by Lawrence.
“He’s worse than any woman in collecting,” Carolyn said.
There was a wall display of old tools before the last flood. They were all saved when the wall was damaged, but they haven’t been rehung.
The gas pumps that once stood outside are long gone. If there were ever hitching posts to accommodate shoppers who rode in on horseback, those too are gone.
Much of the store’s business now comes from the lunch crowd of farm workers and neighbors. Carolyn knows most of them by name.
She makes the sandwiches herself, and the price is right. A country ham sandwich on white bread with a slice of homegrown tomato is $2.75. Add a 75-cent can of Coke and a 50-cent bag of chips and you have lunch with change back from your $5 bill.
Carolyn Jones talks to lunch-time customers at Jones Grocery in Sherburne. Many have been coming to the store for years. (Photo by Andy Mead)
Sparse canned goods on the shelves of Jones Grocery. Co-owner Carolyn Jones depends on a lunch trade for much of her business these days. (Photo by Andy Mead)
The top shelf at Jones Grocery is filled with clocks and other items gathered over the years. They are not for sale. (Photo by Andy Mead)
The most famous attraction in Sherburne once was the covered bridge that crossed the Licking River. It was the only suspension covered bridge in Kentucky and perhaps in the nation. It was built shortly after the Civil War and destroyed by arson in 1981. Now only the historical marker remains. (Photo by Andy Mead)
At lunchtime on a hot summer in July, nine people were gathered at tables at the back of the store, eating and talking.
Among them was Kenneth Gray, who said he had been coming to the store for “about 81 years.” It turned out he was 81.
Gray farmed for 50 years, then worked for 18 years at an IGA grocery in another town that had recently closed.
“I have to eat somewhere so I come here to get a sandwich,” he said.
He remembers when Sherburne had a lot more houses, as well as a bank, a doctor’s offices and other businesses, and a lot more people.
“A lot of them died, bless their hearts,” he said.
And he remembers seeing Jones Grocery flooded. How often? “Plenty of times.”
At another table was Charles Ovington, a retired farmer, and his wife Nancy.
“We like coming down here in the mornings,” Charles said. “She used to open earlier and she would set out rolls and toast and anything you wanted for free. You would buy a cup of coffee for a quarter and eat whatever you wanted for breakfast. That’s the kind of lady she is.”
Last April, as part of the county’s effort to buy and demolish the store, Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc., in Lexington completed a historic documentation of the building. The report, by Sarah J. Reynolds and Kathy Martinolich, confirmed much of the history Carolyn Jones and her customers knew about Sherburne and the old store. And it added a good bit more.
Sherburne got its start in the early 1800s, they wrote. By the 1840s, the plentiful iron ore, coal and timber nearby fueled a manufacturing boom. In the late 1800s the community boasted wooden sidewalks and the first steamboat that navigated the waters of the Licking River. Sherburne was a stagecoach stop on the Maysville and Mount Sterling Turnpike. The coach brought visitors and new residents.
Another store stood on the same spot as the present-day Jones Grocery through much of the 1800s. It burned in 1899 and the building that would become Jones Grocery took its place.
Sherburne and the grocery flourished into the mid-20th century. But the town and the store began slipping into decline. River traffic dwindled. New highways bypassed the town.
The floods did their destructive work.
Homes and businesses disappeared one by one. Even the 253-foot Sherburne Covered Bridge, an impressive structure built just after the Civil War, is gone – a victim of arson in 1981. All that’s left are stone piers and abutments – and an historical marker.
Jones Grocery is the last commercial building that survives from the early 20th century. Only one other commercial building is left in the community, and it is vacant.
Today, the historic documentation report notes, “Sherburne is barely able to keep one store afloat, and the Licking River has tried to carry away the building itself many times.”
Last summer, before her husband opted out of the buyout program, Carolyn said he would not be sad if it closed. She is 67 and would slow down a bit, she said, finding something to do only one or two days a week instead of the current six. And she will have more time to visit her mother, who is in a nursing home.
“It’s in bad shape anyway,” Carolyn said of the old store. “It’s leaning a lot and it leans a little more every week.”
“We’ll see how far these six get us,” Ken said. I hoped he was joking.
We were soon moving down a beautiful stretch of river. We saw great blue herons, vultures, kingfishers and wild turkeys. And then, just before the U.S. 60 Bridge and the Morehead sewer outfall pipe, we saw the second bald eagle of our river trip. It moved ahead of us as we went down the river. I tried to take photos with the long lens on my Nikon. All I got were distant shots of a white tail.
This stretch of river was very pretty, with thick forest around much of it. Trees hug the Licking along nearly its entire length. In many places, the strip of trees is thin, and pastures or crops can be seen through the trees. Because we were down on the water, it often was difficult to see what was just beyond the trees. Stopping to climb up the banks was not practical because they are steep and covered with mud by the frequent up and down water level caused by releases from the dam.
But technology trumped mud. I found that the best way to get an appreciation of what was happening just beyond the banks along the winding path of the river was Google Earth.
That afternoon we were moving along on a shallow stretch of water when – BAM! – the propeller hit something and our canoe stopped moving forward. Ken figured it was time to pull the outboard out of the water, replace the sheer pen, and go on about our business.
When he pulled the motor up, he was surprised to find that the entire propeller was gone. Bruce Hutcheson spent some time feeling around underwater for the missing prop in the general area where it went missing. It would have been an amazing needle-in-a-haystack story if he had found it.
Ken and I lashed our canoe to the Hutchesons’, and we continued down the river on the power of one motor. Ken called his wife in Lexington, and she agreed to meet us near the Wyoming community in Bath County with a spare outboard from Ken’s garage. All in all, it was a pretty easy fix for what could have been a trip-ending calamity.
We camped that night on an island in the river. It was covered with rocks, mud and weedy areas. The maple and sycamore trees on the side of the island that was most often flooded were stunted from often being under water. There were also huge piles of driftwood.
It was a great place to set up tents on relatively high, dry land and be lulled to sleep by the sound of water rushing over rocks at a nearby riffle.
About that trash
An old air conditioning unit, either washed or dumped into the Licking River, and now almost impossible to remove. (Photo by Andy Mead)
The logs shown in this photo will rot and disappear, but not the tire. (Photo by Andy Mead)
Tires washed up on a gravel bed on the Licking River. There have been efforts to pull tires from the river, but many remain. (Photo by Andy Mead)
The remains of what was once an automobile, now just an accumulation of metal rusting away on the river bank. (Photo by Andy Mead)
An effort, apparently decades old, to stop erosion along the banks of the Licking River. (Photo by Andy Mead)
Exploring the island the next morning, we saw deer hoof prints in the soft mud, but no human footprints except our own. We also found what we were pretty sure were deer bones.
The only sign of people was their trash: a riding lawnmower tire, automobile tires, a broken red cooler, a child’s purple slide. Heading down the river again, we started seeing more trash. A lot more. At one point, a child-size plastic car was caught on a log sticking up in the middle of the river. At another, we spied a very old Cadillac that apparently had been pushed over the bank and hadn’t quite made it to the water.
And there were more tires. At one point, I counted 10 in a 50-yard stretch.
Todd Von Gruenigen, the Licking River coordinator for the state Division of Water, hold me that his agency funds or provides assistance to a number of groups that hold river cleanups. He said the state Division of Waste Management also sponsors cleanups and amnesty days during which tires can be turned in without paying a disposal fee.
The amnesty program started as a one-time thing, but was so popular that the Kentucky General Assembly made it a continuing program in 2012. The state says 19 million tires have been turned in and used for fuel or shredded into crumb rubber.
There is no count on how many tires have ended up in a river. The problem with tires in the river is getting them out of the river. They are bulky and heavy. They don’t biodegrade.
But they can be moved. In Bourbon County, the Friends of Stoner Creek worked with Boy Scout troops last summer to get more than 200 tires out of the Licking River tributaries that run through the county.
“On a good day you can put 15 to 20 people in the water and pull 60 to 70 tires out,” said Wayne Estes, a Kentucky Utilities arborist who helped organize the effort.
In some places, the boys could wade into the creek and grab tires, Estes said. In other areas, they had to use canoes. A big part of the planning, he said, was getting permission from landowners for places the boys could get into and out of creeks.
The effort was financed by a $2,400 grant from Kentucky American Water and in-kind contributions from the friends group. In the end, the Boy Scouts got money for camping equipment and the county got less trashy creeks.
I talked about trash with April Haight, director of Morehead State University’s Center for Environmental Education. Most of the counties along the river have mandatory trash collection, she said. And there are fewer illegal dumps than in the past. In comparison to 20 years ago, she said, the Licking has less trash. But it still has too much.
Haight has helped organize several cleanups on the river, on Cave Run Lake and on Triplett Creek, a tributary that enters the Licking in Rowan County.
The good news is that below the dam, the trash being gathered appears to have been there for a while. Not so on Cave Run Lake and Triplett Creek.
“Every time we remove trash, there’s new trash taking its place,” she said.
Unfortunately, Haight said, the trash problem is not unique to the Licking and Cave Run. There also are problems in the Kentucky, Cumberland, Little Sandy and Big Sandy rivers.
“This definitely detracts from the tourism potential of the area,” she said. “It is a shame because so much of the landscape in inspiring.”
She added that other issues, such as sediment washing into the river from logging, farming and mining, also have to be addressed before the region can benefit from the beauty of the Licking and the other rivers.
Haight thinks that more recreation would help decrease trash. That would mean more places to get near or into the water for paddling, swimming, wildlife viewing and fishing.
“The idea is that people are given some sense of being a common caretaker and benefactor, if they have access to the rivers,” she said.
The old country store, and a storm
The low point of that fourth day on the river was the trash. The highlight was a stop for lunch at Jones Grocery in the tiny, fading river town of Sherburne on the edge of Fleming County.
We called ahead to let Carolyn Jones know we were coming, and she let us know that she closed at 3 p.m. on a new reduced schedule that matches dwindling business. We made it in time. She greeted us warmly and made us delicious and cheap sandwiches. Walking into her store was like stepping into the past, and indications are it won’t be around much longer.
The Cave Run Dam has prevented tens of millions of dollars worth of flood damage along the Licking, but Sherburne is in a particularly flood-prone area. The old grocery building, built about 1900, has been flooded many times, and the damage shows. The store sells few groceries these days, and its foundation and future are shaky.
After the late lunch, our goal was to make it to the Clay Wildlife Management Area to spend the night. The wildlife area, which is owned by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, covers nearly 7,400 mostly forested acres where Nicholas, Bath and Fleming counties come together.
We only needed a small patch of it to pitch our tents. As our two canoes put-putted along the river, Ken was checking the weather on his iPhone, and it didn’t look good. A huge storm had hit Lexington and was heading our way. Ken held his phone up to show me a weather map with an angry red mass aimed at us.
We made it to our destination by minutes. With no time to pitch tents, we hurried into a patch of woods and strung a tarp between several trees. Then came the deluge, the lightning and the thunder. After a few minutes of it, I realized that we had sought shelter in a slight depression. We were standing in an inch or so of water, but we and our gear was dry.
When the storm passed, we were able to clear patches in a weedy field and set up our tents. Then came a light drizzle that lasted through the night and provided a perfect soundtrack for sleeping.
No dams, plenty of history
We didn’t know it when we set out the next morning, but something rare and unusual was happening in the water we were moving through. Freshwater mussels, which are in decline in most places, are doing relatively well on the Licking. In the area around the Clay wildlife area, there are more species than there were a few years ago because Monte McGregor, a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources mussels expert, is reintroducing species that used to be there. Mussel species have interesting names, and one of the species that has been put back in the river near the wildlife area is my favorite: the pink mucket.
McGregor said that one of the main reasons mussels do well on the Licking is that below Cave Run there are no dams to alter habitat or block the host fish that the mollusks require for reproduction.
In 1837, federal engineers recommended that 21 structures be built on the river to terrace the drop in elevation between West Liberty and the Ohio. That would have allowed barges to travel up the river to bring out coal and agricultural goods.
Contracts were awarded for the first five structures, but progress was slow because state funds were being concentrated on navigation systems on the Kentucky and Green rivers. By the 1860s, the locks were being dismantled so the stones could be used for the John A. Roebling Bridge between Covington and Cincinnati.
It turned out that what was bad for farmers and others along the river then was good for mussels and other creatures that live in the river now.
The large dam – with no lock – was later built to create Cave Run Lake, of course, but the rest of the Licking runs unfettered. Another dam was planned for Falmouth area in 1936. It has been on the Corps of Engineers inactive list for more than three decades, but talk of it still rises after floods.
Our goal for the end of this day was to make it to Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park. The stretch of river from the Clay wildlife area to Blue Licks was especially picturesque. There were a few sprinkles along the way, but my mind was on the history – and a botanical rarity, waiting at day’s end.
If you think about Daniel Boone when you think about Kentucky history, chances are you also think about Blue Licks.
Boone had led a party from Boonesborough in early 1778 to obtain salt for the settlement. He and his men were caught by a Shawnee war party. After an eloquent speech, Boone persuaded his captors to spare the lives of the men. As a prisoner, he was taken as far as Detroit, but he later escaped and made his way back to Boonesborough.
The “battlefield” in the state park’s name refers to what has been called the last battle of the American Revolution, and it also involved Boone. The state parks department notes the “last battle” claim is debatable but adds, “the struggle at Blue Licks embodies the conflict between the American Indian, Kentucky settlers and the British Crown.”
It happened on Aug. 19, 1782. The British had surrendered at Yorktown, Va., 10 months earlier, but raids by the British and their Native American allies continued in Kentucky.
After Bryan’s Station near Lexington was attacked, Kentucky militiamen, including Boone, set out after them. They caught the British and Native Americans at Blue Licks. Boone warned of an ambush but was ignored. Seventy-seven Kentuckians were killed. The dead included Boone’s son, Israel. Boone would later say Israel’s death was the hardest thing he ever coped with.
A battle reenactment weekend, with music and craft booths, is held each August.
Also at and around the park are patches of Short’s goldenrod, one of the rarest plants in the world. Charles Wilkins Short discovered the pretty, bright yellow flower on a limestone rock outcropping near Louisville in 1840. When a dam was built across the Ohio River in the early 1900s, the plants were destroyed.
The species was assumed to be extinct for several decades, until the ecologist E. Lucy Braun found several small groupings near Blue Licks in 1939. For more than 60 years after that, it was thought that all the Short’s goldenrod in existence grew within a two-square-mile area around the park in Fleming, Nicholas and Robertson counties.
Then a small patch was found in Indiana. Scientists believe the rare goldenrod was spread by bison and grew in habitat maintained by wildfires.
Two nature preserves have been established to protect the plant. From 2006 to 2008, the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission arranged for a Short’s Goldenrod Festival at the state park. But Joyce Bender, the commission’s nature preserves branch manager, said there wasn’t enough interest from the parks department to keep it going.
But the rare plants are still there. If you know what to look for, you can take a walk at the state park in late summer to early fall and see one of the world’s rarest flowers blooming among more common goldenrod species.
A healthy sign: Mussels are thriving, including the endangered fanshell
By Andy Mead
BUTLER – A couple of dozen people on a Sierra Club-sponsored canoe trip were wading near a gravel bank in the Licking River, picking up mussel shells for an expert to identify.
“This one is the fanshell, an endangered species,” Monte McGregor said. “This one is another endangered fanshell. And another one.”
Freshwater mussels are bivalve mollusks, sensitive creatures with interesting names and an extremely elaborate reproduction cycle. North America has more species than the other continents, Kentucky has more than most states, and the Licking River has some of the healthiest mussel populations in the state.
But because they eat by straining water through their bodies, mussels are very sensitive to water pollution. They also don’t cope well with habitat changes caused by dredging or by building dams to create reservoirs.
There are so many dredges, so many dams and so much pollution that mussels are in trouble. Of the 300 species found in the United States, 88 are endangered.
The fanshell has had a spot on the federal Endangered Species List since 1990, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warns that it is in danger of disappearing from the planet.
No one has let the Licking River fanshells in on this dire news.
McGregor, who operates the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ Center for Mollusk Conservation, says the Licking might have the best population of fanshells in the world. There probably were thousands in the short stretch of river the Sierra Club members paddled on a “Learn About Mussels” outing last August.
The fanshell isn’t alone in the Licking.
Until recently, the river had 55 mussel species – a little more than half the species found in the state. But, while mussels are on the decline in so many places, the number of species in the Licking is on the rise.
After being awarded a $500,000 federal grant, McGregor’s center has begun bringing back to the river seven species that once lived there and died out. He and his staff find the mussels still hanging on in another river, remove their larvae, then grow them in tanks or Petri dishes at the center in Frankfort. (The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said 18 places around the country are propagating freshwater mussels).
So far, McGregor has reintroduced three species into the Licking: the pink mucket, northern riffleshell and clubshell. They have been placed at two locations near the Clay Wildlife Management Area, in a section of river that is the dividing line between Nicholas and Fleming counties, and at two sites near the town of Butler in Pendleton County.
There are plans in the next two years to bring back the other four missing species: the purple cat’s paw, rayed bean, rabbitsfoot and rough pigtoe. An eighth species, the tubercled blossom, once called the Licking home, but it is believed to be extinct.
“What we’re doing is raising them in captivity and getting the Licking back to 98 percent of its original fauna,” McGregor told the Sierra Club paddlers. “It will be unique in the world for having almost all of its original fauna by 2016.”
The Licking is a good candidate for the restoration project because mussels already are doing so well there.
Although the river has some pollution from agricultural runoff, faulty septic systems, sedimentation and, in the headwaters, some coal mining, it still has a lot going for it, McGregor said. He points out that parts of the river run through the Daniel Boone National Forest, which means better water quality; and there are no metropolitan areas with their outsized pollution footprint until the Licking reaches Northern Kentucky.
Another very important factor: for nearly 180 miles from the dam that forms Cave Run Lake until it reaches the Ohio River, there are no dams.
“There are very few places in the world left like that, where you have that long a stretch,” McGregor said.
Turning a river into a reservoir can change the mussels’ habitat for the worse, and cut it off from the fish – yes, fish – that mussels require to reproduce.
Here’s the unlikely story of how this works:
The mussel reproduction cycle begins when a male releases sperm into the water. The sperm has to float downstream and find a receptive female of the same species. She pulls the sperm in, fertilizes the eggs, and starts growing them into the larvae stages inside her shell.
Then she gets ready to feed a fish and create more of her kind.
For that next mussel generation to survive, it must spend some time in the gills of a fish. Some species of mussel have a worm-like lure that attracts the fish, which gets sprayed with a face full of larvae. Some species put out a packet of tasty-looking larvae to attract a fish.
Some of the larvae will be eaten; some end up in the gills.
“If you’ve ever watched a fish eat, they will eat it, spit it back out, then eat it again,” McGregor said. “It’s the perfect way to get the larvae into the gills.”
The larvae move up and down the river with the fish for a few weeks, eventually dropping off to start a new life in a new place.
As complicated as that process is, it can be even more convoluted. While all freshwater mussels require a fish host, some species of mussel require a certain species of fish. If the wrong fish swims by and gets the face full of larvae, there will be no little mussels.
Some mussel species have a way of increasing the odds of attracting the fish they need. Take the mussel known as the pistolgrip (because it resembles the handle of a pistol). It needs a flathead catfish to reproduce. Instead of a wormlike lure, it puts out a substance that smells like a rotten fish – mighty tempting for a scavenger.
No dams on such a long stretch of the Licking mean that many species of fish can move up and down the river, some even coming in from the Ohio, McGregor said. That means better odds for mussel reproduction. It also allows for fluctuations in water levels and a wider variety of food sources that benefit mussels and other aquatic life.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, mussels were threatened by mass extinction because their shells made nice buttons. They were saved by two modern things – the introduction of plastic buttons in the 1940s and the increased use of gas and electric clothes dryers, which caused shell buttons to turn unattractive colors.
Mussels are now threatened by the way we use and abuse rivers. Ironically, they are one of the few creatures that improve water quality.
“In a riffle, there can be 700,000 to 800,000 mussels in the area of a football field, each filtering a few gallons of water an hour,” McGregor said.
He told the people on the Sierra Club outing that he has been working with mussels since 1998 and finds them to be both fascinating and important.
“We need more people to be aware of these animals,” he said, “because if they start to die off, we’re in trouble.”
Senior Reporting Fellow
Andy Mead retired from the Lexington Herald-Leader after 34 years, where he distinguished himself as a reporter, with a particular interest in the environment. He also worked at the Boca Raton News for four years before coming to Lexington. He grew up in Savannah, Ga. and graduated with a master’s degree in history from Florida Atlantic University. He is a widower, living in Lexington, and has twins who are college students. As Senior Reporting Fellow for KyCPSJ on the Licking River project, he worked closely with NKU’s Ecological Sustainability Institute and engaged with faculty and students at NKU as a guest speaker and visiting professional-in-residence.