Okay, so many of you are probably thinking, "Great, so why should I care?" That's a valid question. If you're not an off-road enthusiast, then why would you care about a new off-road park? The answer is simple: economic development. Obviously, our four counties aren't situated the best for attracting large employers. We need a catalyst to help us make our region more attractive for new small businesses. We need to use the assets we have to develop our economy, and the biggest underutilized asset at our disposal is our natural landscape. Developing our trail-based economy is also about quality of life. It's important that we make available more recreation attractions for the folks already living in our region, but we also need to attract new blood. Many young professionals and families who work in the Lexington metro area would like to live in a smaller community, with access to outdoor amenities. In today's knowledge and creative economies, there are also many folks who can live wherever they want and work over the internet. It is our responsibility as community leaders to make our region an attractive choice for these kinds of folks. We're already known for our hospitality and slow pace of life; we also need to show off the beautiful natural landscape that we take for granted. These newcomers will purchase, renovate, and build homes. They'll pay taxes to support our currently shrinking tax bases, and they'll become part of our communities by volunteering for local nonprofits and sports leagues. They'll also contribute to our demographics. To attract any new employers, we have to look better "on paper." Don't misunderstand me - some of the smartest and wisest people I've ever known had no more than an 8th grade education, but a large company looks at our percentage of residents holding a bachelor's degree at half the national average, and that scares them off. We only have a little over 40,000 people in our 4 counties, so every person makes a difference.
Hollerwood and motorized trail use are not the only outdoor recreation we must rally around. In Estill County, Lily Mountain Nature Preserve is recently open and offers protected hiking trails in the Southwest end of the county. Of course, the biggest untapped asset is the Daniel Boone National Forest. It occupies a huge chunk of our land in Estill County, and we have next to no access for recreation. The ranger districts overseeing it are in Morehead and London, with the Kentucky River being the dividing line. We have to make our voices heard as a community that we want more access to the Forest's resources. No threats; no accusations. If we're willing to work to take care of any planned development in the Forest, it will make it much easier for its Federal caretakers and their ever shrinking budget to work with us.
Other recreation opportunities coming down the pike are developments at the Kentucky River Park & Recreation Center off of Dry Ridge. Some more dirt will be moving there in the very near future. Also, the county has entered into an agreement to take over the property at Lock 12. This will provide a nice access point for our people to enjoy the Kentucky River up close.
Finally, how can you get involved? If you're interested in Hollerwood Park, just search it on facebook or visit www.hollerwoodpark.com. For Lily Mountain Nature Preserve, search Friends of Lily Mountain on facebook or visit its webpage here. If you're interested in development of trails in general or helping Irvine and Ravenna reach Certified Trail Town status, search out Estill County Trail Town or Estill Action Group on facebook or visit www.estillactiongroup.com for updates.
Geese Be With You,