I’ve gathered this information over the years about Metal Detecting Laws in Kentucky, and hopefully it’s helpful.  If you hear or see changes, please tell me and I’ll research it or make some calls.  

Metal Detecting in Kentucky State Property

No detectors on any State park, KY owned property without an Archaeology permit. Penalties are severe and enforced.  If a KY official tells you to go ahead, they are incorrect. Doing this is asking for trouble and huge negative publicity for our hobby. http://www.lrc.ky.gov/kar/304/001/050.htm

Metal Detecting in Louisville City Parks and Property

No detecting on Louisville city parks or city owned property is allowed. Mayor Fischer told me that Louisville will always follow the State’s lead. If a city employee tells you to go ahead, they are incorrect. So same link applies to Louisville parks: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/kar/304/001/050.htm

Metal Detecting in Lexington City Parks and Property

Lexington does not have any specifically applicable ordinances for metal detecting, but has ordinances related to “excavations.”   I have never heard of this ordinance being used against a metal detectorist in Lexington.  Furthermore, Lexington’s ordinances have clearly been defined for substantial digging, not what is typical for metal detecting.

Cities Don’t Need a Metal Detecting Ordinance to Ask You to Stop.

“Defacing or destroying public property” and “excavation” ordinances are on the books in almost every city and county in KY and are applicable to digging if public officials want to.   These governments/councils do not need to enact specialty “metal detecting” ordinances any more than they need to enact “chopping down trees” ordinances.

They can readily and legally apply the general defacement or excavation ordinance to ask you to stop or even issue fines.   If a county or city official gives you the go-ahead, realize that they may not have the authority to do so.

Metal Detecting in Other County and Small Town Property

Many small town parks lack any real enforcement, and if you’re friendly, most city officials will leave you alone.  But this is more because of the nature of relaxed small towns than any lack of ordinances.

As we know, many city officials are easy-going if you’re friendly to them, haul out trash and fill plugs.  As always, even if you fill holes, digging in the heat of summer is asking for problems with plug-grass dying.  The usual “leave it better than when you arrived” approach is warranted.  

Metal Detecting in City or County-Owned Roadway Easements

 Easements in just about every city in KY are owned by the government (state, county or city.) City easements are usually maintained by the landowner.  Landowners usually don’t want you digging on “their” easements without permission no matter what the city /county says.   Courtesy permission is the way to go.  This is a “flash point” for pissing off property owners, and easements are usually a junk-filled mess anyway in my experience.
Generally historically sensitive areas in county or city owned property is off limit to detecting or at least enforced more vigorously.

Metal Detecting in Kentucky Streams, Rivers and Waterways

Kentucky has public trust / public use easement for commercially navigable waterways.  This means if you can use the waterway for commerce most of the year, then it may be considered public property, and state property rules apply.  This doesn’t mean you can float a dinghy or canoe and call it “navigable.”  Here is a really well done article on this matter with references.  Almost every waterway you can detect in is going to be private property with no public easement.    Good article here on this.

 Metal Detecting in Federal Property

(This includes Land Between the Lakes Federal Area. I know the head Archaeologist at LBL and verified this)

No.  Just no.  Don’t even pretend to do it.  You’ll lose your detector and even the vehicle you used to drive there.   Archaeology permits are required for this (in case you’ve seen my posts about detecting in Gettysburg, etc.) and it is extremely unlikely that you’ll ever gain one of these as a non-professional.

The Antiquities Act and Federal Preservation laws laws apply and are very strict.

Metal Detecting in Kentucky County or City Schools

Most school boards will say “no” if you ask them,  but they are usually pleased to see litter removal.  School grounds staff are usually very friendly and curious, but if they ask you to leave, don’t make life hard on them.  If there’s a school you really want to detect, you can approach a member of the school board in question with the usual “leave it better than when I arrived” promises.

Metal Detecting on Private Property in Kentucky

Metal detecting on private property is allowed with owner permission.  Private property includes private schools, churches, farms and residences.  Written permission is always best.  Even just a text from the property owner can be helpful.  Always know the owner’s name and how to reach them in the field if a neighbor challenges you.

Feedback always welcome.