Joined: 09 Sep 2005
|Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:49 pm Post subject: Meeting on the Dawkins Line, hosted by Big Sandy ADD
|By Kathy J. Prater
Staff Writer, Paintsville Herald
“We look at adventure tourism as a big puzzle ... and all the exciting things going on out there are all a part of the puzzle,” said Sandy Runyon, Big Sandy Area Development District, as she welcomed First Lady Jane Beshear to a discussion on the issue held at the Big Sandy ADD office, in Prestonsburg, Wednesday evening (October 8th, 2008)
Addressing those assembled, Beshear said, “The beauty of Eastern Kentucky
is taken for granted by those who live here, but visitors leave impressed with the beauty and with the hospitality of the region.”
Beshear, an equestrian, is a proponent of building adventure tourism possibilities in the Eastern Kentucky region, most especially those which involve the development of trails for horseback riding, biking, and hiking. Beshear says that the trails, once established, will bring an economic boom to the region as well as opening up a vast potential for a variety of small businesses.
“We once took our family on a vacation out West ... we took wildflower rides, stayed in cottages, rented horses. We spent so much money and we really could have done it all right here. There is nothing that other states have that Kentucky does not,” she said.
Runyon said she believes that the eastern region of Kentucky can become a “tourist destination ... by not just offering bike, hiking and horse trails, but everything a family on vacation is looking for.” That includes, she said, everything from supply stores, restaurants, overnight accommodations, campsites, gift/souvenir shops, entertainment venues and more.
Judge-Executive Tucker Daniel, who attended the meeting with Paul Daniel, Kathy Adams and Darren Gamble, commissioners, Johnson County Fiscal Court, said of plans to develop interconnecting trails throughout Johnson, Magoffin and Breathitt counties through the use of abandoned railroad lines, “It makes sense. It’s something that’s already here and already established. Other states have done it, those people are no smarter than we are and they got it done ... I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to explore the opportunities,” he said.
Daniel added, however, that he would not move forward with plans to develop the “Rails to Trails” project without first gathering the input and opinions of Johnson County residents. “I know people are fearful about certain aspects, but I think many of those fears are unfounded,” he said.
Beshear said that findings show that adventure tourism seekers are primarily comprised of “responsible adults with disposable incomes who love the outdoors ... They don’t come to do any harm, in many cases they leave the area even better than before.”
Beshear also said that of properties situated along Rails to Trails lines that “studies show that property values have done nothing but escalate ... opponents of the program end up becoming supporters who end up wanting to see the trailways expand.”
Adventure Tourism, according to Beshear, “is a $33 billion industry .... thirty-three percent of people in the nation participate in outdoor recreation and international travelers participate, as well.”
Currently, Kentucky has approximately 33 miles of trails, with the longest being approximately six miles in length, Beshear said. “Our neighbors -- Ohio, Indiana, Virginia -- have hundreds of miles of trails,” she said. “We have the abandoned railroads and they contain the advantage of being able to withstand the weight of the horses ... my dream is to have a cross-Kentucky trail ... miles of beautiful land that could prove to be a big economic boom to Johnson, Magoffin and Breathitt counties.”
Beshear said she would like to see the Rails to Trails project completed by 2010.
Many thanks to the Paintsville Herald for allowing reproduction of this article.
Posted by Dixie Moore, Secretary KRTC