The Tri-Cities was awarded the designation of Kentucky Trail Town at a ceremony held at the Betty Howard Memorial Coal Miner’s Theater in Benham on Monday. The designation is the culmination of several years of work on the part of the cities of Benham, Lynch and Cumberland.
According to a press release, the Tri-Cities became the 13th Trail Town in Kentucky. The Trail Town program is overseen by the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and is intended to help promote adventure tourism in the area.
“We’re excited about adding these three eastern Kentucky communities to our Trail Towns, said Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Bob Stewart. “The trails, parks and rich history of this region will provide tourists to this area with some excellent options.”
The Trail Town program is aimed at connecting communities to trail systems and developing them as tourist destinations. It will guide travelers to trails, food, lodging, campgrounds, museums, entertainment and other services. The designation will help communities improve their tourism economy, add more jobs and create more tourism opportunities for the entire state.
“We’re glad to welcome Cumberland, Benham and Lynch to our Trail Town program,” First Lady Jane Beshear said. “These three communities make an excellent addition and will be a boost for tourism in this region.”
Bobbie Gothard, a resident of the Tri-Cities area, was instrumental in securing the designation.
“We’re just delighted that we’ve finally made it,” Gothard said.
Gothard mentioned it has taken four years to secure the designation.
Harlan County Agriculture Agent and Tri-Cities Trial Town Task Force member Jeremy Williams said the designation is in large part the result of efforts by the Tri-Cities Trail Town Task Force.
“The Tri-Cities Trail Town Task Force was a grass roots organization that came together to make something happen,” Williams said. “We’ve got several trails already established and we’re working on more now.”
Harlan County District 3 Magistrate David Kennedy was also on hand for the ceremony.
“This is the high point of a lot of hard work by a lot of good people,” Kennedy said. “This just goes to show what can happen when you set your mind to it, without any money to begin with, with everybody going in the same direction…we’ve slowly accomplished our dream of having this Trial Town certification.”
Kennedy said everybody from county and city officials to private citizens contributed to making the designation happen.
“This is just the beginning of what the potential tourism possibilities are,” Kennedy said. “It’s up to us to advertise and promote, and we can go from there.”
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said the designation is a huge step for tourism in Harlan County.
“Getting this Trail Town Designation opens us up to a lot of additional promotion at the state level,” said Mosley. “Getting it for all three cities means this is unified approach in this area to continue to promote the different forms of tourism that we have.”
Mosley mentioned Trail Towns involve multiple segments of outdoor recreation.
“This is going to go a long way in bringing addition people to our area,” said Mosley. “It gives us an additional way to piggy-back off tourism promotion efforts around the state and around the nation…We’re thrilled. I appreciate Gov. Beshear and Jane for being such advocates for tourism, they realize how important tourism is to our economy here in the mountains. It’s not our whole economy, but it is a piece of the pie, and this designation will help us bring more people here.”
The release states more than 30 communities have started the application process for becoming a Trail Town. At this time, 13 Kentucky communities including Dawson Springs, Livingston, Morehead, London, Elkhorn City and Berea have already received designations. The Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, the Department of Travel and Tourism and Office of Adventure Tourism will help promote and market cities with a Trail Town designation. Trail Towns are highlighted on state maps, websites, visitors’ guides and other state promotional materials.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde