HAZARD—Hazard and Perry County have taken yet another step forward to becoming a designated river trail town after local leaders signed an application last week to begin the process.
John Epperson, with Hazard Perry County Tourism, said the process may be long but the economic benefits could far outweigh the effort needed to complete it.
“It may happen and it may not, but if you don't try you'll never know,” Epperson said.
A meeting was held last month with representatives from multiple local agencies as well as Kentucky Adventure Tourism and the Kentucky River Keepers to discuss the possibility of making Hazard a river trail town and the tourism opportunities and advantages that would open up to the area with this designation.
Perry County Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble and Mayor Nan Gorman signed a letter presented by Epperson last week to approve the application process.
Gorman said she hopes the initiative will bring in more tourists once the city has been designated a trail town, and is willing to back anything she thinks could help the local economy.
“I think just from the standpoint of a citizen that lives here and works here that we need to think of how we can have enjoyment in our lives regardless of our economic condition,” Gorman said. “We'll have a little leisure right here at home instead of having to travel, and it might be good economically to start enjoying our own area.”
Noble agreed with Gorman, adding that with the impending opening of a horse trail in the county and other tourism possibilities, this initiative is simply another step forward in the search for a sustainable solution to the region's economic hardships.
“I think it's very important to work with tourism and to get this river thing going and get the horse riding trail back up,” Noble said.
Noble said the county and city will have to work together for this project to be completed, adding that a river cleanup in the county next spring may even be in the works.
“If you bring people in you need attractions. The garbage in the river is not an attraction,” he said.
One of the biggest problems, and most difficult to remedy, Noble explained, is the abundance of tires in the river.
“We need to clean up the tires, as many as we can get, and try to keep the river as clean as possible,” Noble said, adding that the cleanup would be a great way to have county and city volunteers work together.
Noble said the tires are so difficult to dispose of because it is a costly process, however, a program available to Perry and surrounding counties may be a solution to the tire issue.
“We have a tire amnesty like every four years, and the other counties around us have tire amnesties,” Noble said.
Though the county can only participate in the amnesty program every four years, Noble explained that the surrounding counties team together and take in each other's tires whenever their amnesty year rolls around.
“I hope that we can get rid of them like that, like we've been doing,” he said. “And I don't care personally to spare time to clean up down the creek Chavies-wise.”
Epperson said he and his office are very hopeful that this initiative will eventually help shoulder some of the burden the county has been facing after having lost hundreds of jobs in the last two years.
“We're hoping that it'll bring people in to enjoy the natural beauty that we have the opportunity to enjoy every day,” he said. “We hope that it'll have an economic effect, that it'll do something to promote the economy.”