Governor Ernie Fletcher announced today a $50,000 Recreational Trails grant for Harlan County. Commissioner Darrell D. Brock, Jr. of the Governor’s Office for Local Development (GOLD) was on hand to present the check which will go towards assisting in the production of a Recreational Vehicle (RV) park.
The efforts of Harlan County to bring new tourism opportunities to their region reflects a growing trend of Appalachian communities capitalizing on their natural resources to attract tourists to the commonwealth. This trend is featured in the upcoming edition of National Geographic Traveler where the National Geographic Society names Appalachia an undiscovered national treasure.
“National Geographic, in naming Appalachia as an undiscovered treasure, has shed light on what residents of Harlan County already know—that they are surrounded by rare natural beauty that citizens from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the rest of the nation should be able to enjoy,” said Governor Ernie Fletcher.
By using old coal roads, which are beyond repair for any practical use, Harlan County is making over 130 miles of all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trails. They are wanting to install the RV park as well as other campgrounds for their numerous out of state guests, which have included individuals from Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, Florida and from various locations from across the state. Since October 2004, Harlan County has played host to over 400 avid ATV riders and they are currently ranked as the number one place in the country to ride ATVs according to www.atvpathfinder.com.
“There are an increasing number of individuals who enjoy riding ATVs and travel all over the country to find the best locations,” said Commissioner Brock. “This is a fantastic opportunity for Harlan County to open the mountains of Appalachia to hundreds of tourists and to reuse the coal roads that were once considered to be unusable.”
Commissioner Brock, Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Appalachian Regional Commission’s representative, presented a check to the Harlan County Fiscal Court on Thursday, March 24 at the Evarts Multipurpose Center.
Following the check presentation, Commissioner Brock went on an ATV ride with members from the Harlan County Ridge Runners, a local group who volunteers to maintain the trails as well as give trail tours.
The Recreational Trails Program is funded through the Federal Highway Administration and may be used to acquire land for recreational trails and to develop and renovate trails for both motorized and non-motorized use. Recreational Trails funding is administered by the Governor’s Office for Local Development.