Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet
Advisory Committee Develops Plan For Lake Cumberland
FRANKFORT, Ky. – An advisory committee that is working to improve tourism and economic development in the Lake Cumberland area has developed a plan for the lake’s future.
The Lake Cumberland Tourism/Economic Development Advisory Committee is working with local, state and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gov. Steve Beshear, U.S.Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers and U.S. Congressman Ed Whitfield.
“Our goal is to help the Lake Cumberland area recover so we can provide tourism and economic development opportunities for the residents in this region,” Gov. Beshear said. “It’s important that government agencies hear the concerns from representatives of the people who live in this area and work toward finding solutions.”
Because of required repair work on Wolf Creek Dam by the Corps of Engineers, the water level of the lake was lowered in 2007, causing a reduction in the number of tourists in the region. State government has been working in the area to help promote the lake and tourism opportunities.
“Lake Cumberland is the economic backbone for the communities that depend on tourism to keep afloat,” said Congressman Rogers. “In these times of economic uncertainty it is vital that we work together to promote tourism and bring life back to the region. While there have been obstacles at the Lake, people need to know that Lake Cumberland is open for business and that it is still the crown jewel of southern and eastern Kentucky.”
“Lake Cumberland has long been a vital part of the local economies surrounding the lake and a vibrant part of the Kentucky culture,” said Congressman Whitfield. “As Kentucky communities continue to face tough financial times, we must do all that we can to help spur economic growth around Lake Cumberland while assuring the safety of residents downstream. I am pleased to work with the Lake Cumberland Tourism/Economic Development Advisory Committee as we work toward these shared goals.”
The committee’s “Lake Cumberland Economic Security Plan” makes recommendations for marketing, maintaining visitation levels, parking and other issues involving the lake. (The report is attached to this document below)
Gov. Beshear, Congressman Rogers and Congressman Whitfield thanked the committee for its work and said they fully support and would work to implement the plan.
The Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet is facilitating the committee, which will continue to discuss and make recommendations to state and federal agencies about ways to improve tourism and economic development in the region.
The committee members include: James Flatt, Russell County; J.D. Hamilton, Burnside; Charlie Denny, Wayne County; Tony Sloan, Clinton County; Rodney Casada, Pulaski County; Jeff Crowe president and CEO of TOUR Southern and Eastern Kentucky; Martin Shearer, Executive Director of Somerset-Pulaski County Economic Development Foundation; Chris Girdler, Field Representative of Congressman Rogers’ office; Sandy Simpson, Field Representative for Congressman Whitfield; Steve Carter, director of the East Kentucky Office for the Economic Development Cabinet; Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Marcheta Sparrow and Jeff Belcher of Gov. Beshear’s office.
Lake Cumberland Economic Security Plan
We have the utmost confidence that the Army Corps is well on its way to successfully rehabilitating Wolf Creek Dam. Repairing the dam and keeping downstream citizens safe is of paramount necessity. With this we take no issue. Nothing in this plan to protect and promote the people’s economic wellbeing of the Region and the Commonwealth of Kentucky interferes with this critical mission priority.
Much has been communicated by many in previous resolutions, letters and meetings at the State and local levels about the need to address in a meaningful way the current and long term economic hardship the Wolf Creek Rehabilitation project has caused this State and the Lake Cumberland Regional Economy. It is time to move forward with a solution.
This plan provides the solution to secure our economic future. It lays the foundation for a sustainable long term economic recovery of the region. It will allow development of new opportunities, help businesses grow and families of the region find long term employment. This plan will help secure a bright economic future for ourselves and our children.
1) Preserve existing visitation levels. The Corps primarily relies on private market partners such as marinas to provide the necessary capital, risk taking and professional management needed to provide facilities and high quality services to the recreational visitors. Marinas account for 78% of visitation hours on Lake Cumberland. It is important to ensure marina operators can maintain their facilities, operations and high levels of service to sustain the current visitation levels. We fully support H.R.2821. We support suspension of rent and reimbursement to the Counties. We also believe it is unjust and unnecessarily damaging not to reimburse these key stakeholders for the Economic damage caused them by the project. Support like that envisioned in H.R. 2821 is just and necessary to ensure the health of these key stakeholders during this critical time.
2) Restore the ‘Lake Cumberland’ Brand with a significant marketing campaign. While the lower water has had deleterious effects there is still plenty of water for recreation and time has allowed Mother Nature to improve the aesthetics with vegetation. However no significant measures have been taken to counteract the damage done to the ‘Lake Cumberland’ brand. The barrage of negative press generated by the lowering was National and severe. The ad budgets of the marinas and local tourism offices are insufficient for this task. The Lake Cumberland Association estimates it would take a multi-million dollar campaign to counteract this brand damage.
3) Expand the Overnight Visitation Demographic by approving Static On Water Accommodations (SOWA’s) within leased areas. These economically critical visitors primarily seek an on-water accommodation. Because of natural geographic topography and current Corps policy the only available option is the traditional houseboat experience. Consequently current overnight visitation faces two large market barriers. First, it requires significant boating experience. Second, the price for a weekend has skyrocketed. The rise of the Internet and the cruise line industry has created significant competition to this business model.
A) Floating SOWA’s such as “floating cottages” would lower prices considerably perhaps by 50 percent and requires no expertise. This would vastly expand the vacation demographic opportunity for Lake Cumberland.
B) Land based SOWA’s like that proposed in the development of Potato Knoll allows for water views and access with the unique experience of an island. It requires no boating experience and this condominium type accommodation is very familiar to vacationers worldwide. Economically this would provide Pulaski County with $1.4 million in revenue from the sale and approximately $400,000 per year in property tax. In this case there is no unique habitat destroyed and no species threatened. The proposed project is green and a good example of balancing environmental concerns with responsible development. There are no bridges or causeways. The land is in the middle of a commercial lease and in the city of Burnside. It would be unique signature development for Pulaski County.
4) Allow and Support Growth Stimulative Projects with Positive Socioeconomic Impacts proposed by local governments. One such project we support is the approval and construction of a 10,000 seat outdoor amphitheater at Pulaski County Park. A venue to accommodate national acts, festivals and local events would attract an entirely new visitation demographic seeking on water entertainment and not solely on boating and the typical lake experience. It leverages the existing visitations to the area, creates a unique entertainment venue and significant market differentiator for Lake Cumberland and the region. It would also enhance usage of the commercial air service into the Cumberland Regional Airport. It would enhance the quality of life for current citizens by providing an amenity commonly enjoyed by urban citizens. Additionally it would provide a great economic development tool to draw people and businesses to the Lake Cumberland region.
5) Expansion of parking facilities will be necessary to foster increased visitation. The topography of Lake Cumberland, the Corps cut–fill policy, the high cost and business economics associated with parking has limited its availability. It is not practical for marinas to fund parking lots. Every major expansion on Lake Cumberland was done with government funds. The state is spending $1 million to expand parking at State Dock. The Corps is providing no such assistance to the federal concessionaires. An offset excavation project should be implemented immediately to ensure the public need for more parking no longer conflicts with Corps cut-fill policy.
6) Clean up the shoreline of logs and debris. With 40 ft. of shoreline exposed for 1,280 miles over a six year period. There is great concern about the impact this will have on boating hazards when the lake level returns. The Corps should continue and expand shoreline cleanup program.
7) The expenditure of Federal and State resources involving any aspect of Lake Cumberland should be concentrated to execute this targeted plan. Economic mitigation has been under resourced. However the very limited resources both human and financial spent to date have been disconcerted and random. Some have been ineffective and wasteful. It is critical we concentrate our resources within the strict context of executing this strategically targeted plan. Each local government executive shall appoint a member of the Lake Cumberland Association to an Economic Coordination Committee. This committee will serve as the working group for the plans implementation.