Developing a Strategic Plan for Adventure Tourism in Knott County
In 2006, it became the vision of Judge Randy Thompson to develop a countywide Adventure Tourism Park System across Knott County. In 2006, WMTH Corporation was hired by the Knott County Fiscal Court to help on this endeavor. A team headed up by Debby Spencer with WMTH Corporation along with Economic Research Associates out of Washington DC and both Summit Engineering from Pikeville and Barge Wagoner Sumner & Cannon out of Tennessee were instrumental in developing the first strategic plan. From that plan, the ATV Safety Training Center was built, numerous trails (both ATV and horseback riding) were established and Knott County was declared “Elk Capital of the East”.(See FOREWORD for more on previous efforts of Knott County in Adventure Tourism)
In 2007, the state launched a study to develop a comprehensive plan for adventure tourism in southeastern Kentucky. The study recognized Knott County as “a leader in innovative, countywide trail projects”. The study also noted the following:
Active trail sports are a major asset of Knott County with particular attention to ATV’s and equestrians due to the overall quality of the landscape and participation in the sKYward Trail project.
Knott County has clearly taken major strides in developing wildlife viewing opportunities including the Adventure Park System, Starfire Wildlife Management Area, and Littcarr Wildlife Viewing Area.
And that Carr Creek Lake and associated state park can provide excellent fishing and boating opportunities in Knott County.
To further Knott County’s efforts, the study recommended that both county and tourism leadership should:
Continue to organize events, industry sponsorship, user groups, and facility
development/maintenance supporting the expansion of this system.
Coordinate with Mountain Trail Development Coalition and relevant trail sport interest groups to identify priority projects to enhance trails as recommended.
Highway 80 is the major corridor in the county. Campaign signage and information
kiosks should be strategically placed to provide a sense of arrival and travel information.
Position Knott County as an essential element for tour itineraries that include ATV trails, equestrian riders, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
Actively participate in coordination efforts for regional goal setting and marketing
initiatives associated with the “Kentucky Adventure Terrain Nature’s Playground”
KNOTT COUNTY RECEIVES FUNDING FOR DEVELOPING STRATEGIC PLAN
In 2008, Knott County Fiscal Court applied for and received a flexi-grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission through the Kentucky Department of Local Government to expand the plan further. The Fiscal Court hired WMTH Corporation to assist in this endeavor. As part of the research and data collection process, the consultant met with the Knott County Tourism Commission and asked for their assistance in setting up community meetings throughout the county to obtain public input and ideas for inclusion in the strategic plan. It was originally planned to survey citizens, clubs, county and city officials, etc. plus hold two public meetings within the county. The consultant found it much more advantageous and informative to hold public meetings in different parts of the county to ensure greater participation. All of the clubs, organizations, city and county officials etc. were invited to these meetings and we averaged around 20 or more people per meeting and continue to receive wonderful feedback and involvement by the public.
First Step: Community Meetings During the summer of 2008, the Knott County Tourism Commission set up seven community meetings throughout Knott County. The goal was to:
Determine what the communities considered were the top priorities in adventure tourism in order for the county to reach its full potential.
And what communities felt were some of the opportunities to pursue in their particular areas.
The first meeting was with the Knott County Tourism Commission themselves to get their perspective and ideas then meetings were set up at the following locations and the public encouraged to attend through personal invitations from tourist commission members, the local newspaper and the radio station.
The community site locations included:
Carr Creek U.S. Corps of Engineers office for meeting with tourism commission,
Hindman Settlement School,
Alice Lloyd College,
Carr Creek Marina area,
Holly Hills/Mall area,
Beckham Combs Community Center,
Carrie Community Center,
and Jones Fork Fire Station.
OVERVIEW OF RECOMMENDATIONS FROM PUBLIC MEETINGS
Recommendation Number 1:
The one recommendation brought out in every meeting was lodging.
All seemed to agree that a hotel or multiple hotels at Chestnut Mountain Development near the Sportsplex was the most logical location.
Note: Two hotels have expressed possible interest.
Other lodging recommendations included:
Developing B&B’s, cabins and campgrounds throughout the county. Potential sites and locations mentioned:
A horse campground and possibly cabins near Littcarr.
Potential B&B and/or small motel near Holly Hills Recommend a
partnership between ALC and Hindman Settlement School be worked out to insure occupancy during particular times of the year.
Carl Perkins home might be a possible site for a B&B/small museum due to its historical significance.
Cabins in and around Carr Creek Lake are needed.
Potential for campgrounds in the Beaver Dam (Consol area).
Convert Beckham Combs School classrooms into lodging unit.
Both the grounds at Beckham Combs School and Caney School might be used for campgrounds since both already have water, sewer and electricity and could accommodate up to 30 campers.
Potential lodging at Pioneer Village in existing cabins.
There were a number of potential sites and interested parties in developing campgrounds and cabins throughout the county in particularly the Jones Fork area and a site near Raven if the county agrees to help market them.
And county / grant funding has been set aside to develop an RV Park near the ATV Safety Training Center once land has been purchased.
All seemed to agree that whatever was built, it should be built well. No one wanted to see shacks or used worn out trailers. Knott Countians desired to become a “premier quality location to vacation”.
Recommendation Number 2:
All groups tended to agree that a restaurant offering fine dining and atmosphere was very much needed in the county. Again, people tended to see the Chestnut Mountain
area near the Sportsplex as the most logical location for such a facility.
Recommendation Number 3 which was consistently agreed upon in each of the meetings:
The need for a shuttle service which could offer elk & wildlife viewing opportunities and transport visitors from the Sportsplex and lake area to downtown Hindman to enjoy the museums, Artisan Center and working artists on Main Street and possibly include lunch at the Artisan Café, Mall area or Alice Lloyd College.
PLEASE NOTE: All of the above could be an opportunity for entrepreneurial businesses.
The parking issue at Hindman was also discussed at length at a number of the meetings. Some felt the shuttle service was a possible solution. Others felt a parking structure was needed to accommodate increased traffic as tourism increases in the area.
Recommendation Number 4:
Better signage is needed throughout the county so people traveling through can find attractions and know that the area has a lot to offer.
ACTION TAKEN: Bernice Amburgey and Debby Spencer are working on a signage plan to submit to the Kentucky Departments of Transportation and Tourism, Arts & Heritage.
Recommendation Number 5:
Need to capitalize on the fact that Knott County is the “Elk Capital of the East” by using elk in everything that is done including signage, publications, billboards, special elk themed events, t-shirts, logos etc. (See Knott County Marketing Plan document for more on this.)
ACTION TAKEN: An elk view station has been established on Elk View Drive near Sutton Memorial Park off Hwy 1098. Others need to be developed and both directional and interpretive signs added.
Potential site locations include Thornsberry Branch Area
Recommendation Number 6:
Establish more trails as part of the vision for establishing a “county-wide adventure tourism park system”.
Horse Trails:? Need day both use parking or overnight camping at trailheads.
Develop horse campgrounds at Littcarr park area and near Sutton Memorial Park.
There are 6 miles of horse trails identified and mapped near the Carr Creek area
Shingle Branch and other horse trails already mapped - contact Bernice.
Contact private landowners.
ATV trails need to be GPSed and mapped in the Red Fox and Fire Trail areas and trailheads established.
Potential area for both ATV and horseback riding trails to be established in the Jones Fork area connecting to the Fire Trail through Holly Bush then extended all the way into Virginia.
Another potential trail system is in the Big Branch area connecting with both Perry and Letcher counties. Other areas include: Knob area, ICG property, Raven area and Hemp Patch.
ACTION: Landowners along these trails need to be identified and contacted.
Potential for developing mountain bike trails throughout the county
Establish wildlife viewing trails and areas and add interpretive signs
Carbon Glow near Letcher is an excellent place to view wildlife.
Pigman Bottoms near Pinetop one can view free-roaming elk.
Bird watching areas include Burgey’s Creek.
Excellent site for birdwatching but needs interpretive signs.
Recommendation Number 7:
Already established bike routes across Knott County are noted on state highway map with safe havens at Carrie Post Office and Alice Lloyd College. These designated roads are part of the TransAmerica Bike Route Across America. Knott County needs to capitalize on this.
Work with bicycle clubs and the state to market the route and add additional routes.
Recommendation Number 8:
Motorcycle routes have been mapped but need to be promoted.
Need to find out more about Budweiser and Combs Custom Cycles.
There is a connection with NASCAR and Petty racing. Find out more.
Recommendation Number 9:
Hunting opportunities include but are not limited to: elk, deer, grouse, quail, coon and fox
Entrepreneurial opportunities for hunting guide service and hunting kennels for those living in larger cities to have a place to keep their dogs.
Need to work with local land owners to identify and map where people may hunt.
There were many other recommendations including, but not limited to:
Need for greater marketing of Carr Creek Lake including both fishing and boating opportunities.
Potential for shooting range, clay shooting and archery shoot.
Also explore expanded use of Carr Creek Fish & Game area.
Potential shooting range in Carrie Community area.
Possibility of incorporating Cordia Community Center and High School into tourism plan.
Camp Nathanael is an interested partner in tourism.
Better use and clean up of Troublesome Creek as a tourism asset.
New welcome center proposed at the intersection of Hwy 160 & 80 through an agreement with Yoder’s and the Knott County Tourism Commission.
County funding available for amphitheater Need to locate on public land.
New Knott County/Letcher County airport is “in the works”.
Need to develop more eco-friendly tourism opportunities.
Need to encourage county-wide clean up.
Work with both PRIDE and CEDARinc.org
Develop a craft trail
Establish a Knott County Land Use Committee and have chapters within the county to address special needs for those areas.
Since the meetings many things have occurred, a few of which are noted below:
A site was identified for a second elk viewing station in another portion of the county. Representatives from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have visited the site as has members of Pippa Passes City Council representing that particular region of the county. They are now working with local land owners to put in food plots to encourage a greater number of elk to come to the site. The City has also agreed to periodically police the area which happens to be on the old highway loop which is no longer used. We are also working with the marketing committee to place one of the proposed interpretive signs at this location.
The U.S. Corps of Engineers has offered land through a lease agreement for both an equestrian trailhead and campsite and have offered to work with the county to provide both the use of showers and restroom facilities to those staying at the trailhead/campsite.
The LKLP organization has stepped forward and offered the county the Pioneer Village Property which includes restroom facilities, a covered pavilion, large rock fireplace, two log cabins (one of which is air conditioned), plus a small two-stall log stable. The Fiscal Court is now looking into the option of developing a trail to connect this site to the U.S. Corps of Engineers site which crosses through reclaimed coal property in which the trails already exist.
A couple is renovating the old school house at Burgey’s Creek and considering opening it as a meeting place for boy scouts and other groups. They also expressed interest in developing horse trails and trailhead on their property or possibly a golf course. Others have stepped forward with interest in developing trails across their properties, building cabins and other offerings conducive to building a true “adventure tourism park system” across the county.
A second elk view station near Pippa Passes has been identified.
Proposed trailhead for Shingle Branch Equestrian Trails
One of the structures at Pioneer Village
Over the following months, the consultant conducted site visits to many of the areas recommended or suggested for potential development. These include but are not limited to
the list provided below, many of which will be addressed in more detail later in this document.
In the southern portion of the county:
A potential site for a horse camp on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property.
Potential camp near Carr Creek Lake on land owned by Corps but leased to county.
Potential trailhead for horse trails around Carr Creek Lake.
Potential campground and access to hundreds of miles of trails at Pioneer Village that offers restroom facility, large pavilion, fireplace, a cottage, large two story log home and a two stall log stable.
Potential for developing ATV trails that access from Red Fox leading into Letcher County.• Opening a restaurant on the water at Carr Creek Lake.
Note: Restaurant opened this summer at Carr Creek Lake Marina.
In eastern portion of the county:
Potential private development for lodging at the Burgey’s Creek school house or developing horse trails or possibly a golf course on reclamation land above the site.
Developing an elk view station just past Pippa Passes off the old highway.
Developing cabins and trail in the Jones Fork area.
Developing a trailhead on the Fire Trail.
Potential for connecting trails into Floyd County.
In the northern portion of the county:
Developing a campground near the ATV Training Facility with water, electricity and a dump station.
Developing a pedestrian/bike trail connecting Sutton Memorial Park to Elk View Station.
Developing a scenic byway through three counties.
Expanding the trail system for both horses and ATV’s into Breathitt County.
In the central portion of the county:
As recommended in the state’s Adventure Tourism Study, information kiosks should be strategically placed to provide a sense of arrival and travel information.
ACTION TAKEN: A gazebo has been built and now is strategically placed at the corner of Hwy 160 and Hwy 80 in front of Yoder’s, a very popular store for both visitors and residents. The gazebo is open 24/7 and offers visitors maps and tourism information on all the offerings throughout Knott County. Tourism information is also provided at the Sportsplex, Artisan Center and other strategic locations.