Hey everyone…Jon here. I figured I would give everyone an update on all things adventure tourism here in Bell County.
First off, I just completed applying for a few grants through private companies. One grant was to purchase about $8,000 worth of gates for property owners with land adjacent to Mountain Drive. Many of these landowners have trails leading from their property into Mountain Drive. I felt that the number one concern of people that live near Mountain Drive was the possibility of park visitors trespassing onto their land. I would like to point out one thing: the people that we have guided that have come from outside our area have been more respectful of the laws, land, and people of this area than many of our locals are. However we know that since there are so many tracts of private land that adjoin Mountain Drive through trails, it would be in everyone’s best interest if this issue was addressed. This would not only help in deterring future trespassing instances but also improve any problems with trespassing that these landowners have now. If we receive this grant and are able to purchase these gates, we will need property owners who have trails from their land leading to Mountain Drive to contact me.
The other grant I applied for was for the amount of approximately $30,000. This grant, if we receive it, will be used to purchase many things to improve the park. This includes new trail signs, entrance signs, lumber and equipment to build rain shelters and outhouses, picnic tables and grills for campsites, and all sorts of equipment such as chain saws and weed eaters so that club members can maintain the property on Mountain Drive. This grant is very important to the future of the property and would definitely help refine our park. So we ask that people in Bell County who are adamant about Adventure Tourism to keep your fingers crossed…Hopefully we can receive both of these grants, as both are very important to our cause.
The biggest problem that we face concerning the future park at Mountain Drive (Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park) is the location for a trailhead facility. As many know, the park is split into two sections: the Colmar side and the Hances’ Ridge side. These sides are separated by Highway 1344 near the junction of Hwy 217. We had hopes of developing the trail head facility off the bridge to nowhere, and still have these hopes. However, the money that was going to be used to do this was voted down surprisingly in the last House session. The money was to be used to bring necessary utilities to the industrial park on Mountain Drive such as water, sewer, and electric, and subsequently would have brought those utilities to the Hance’s Ridge section of the park. The problem is that on the Hance’s Ridge side…we have perfect road access from highway 119, but none of the utilities mentioned above. The Colmar side however, has all the utilities such as water, sewer, and electric, but has limited access. The access from highways 188, 1344, and 516, and 988 are all very winding, narrow roads that could not facilitate a large influx of traffic that the bridge to nowhere on the Hance’s side could provide. It is possible to take flatblad trailers hauled by trucks up highway 188 and 1344, however these roads would not be suitable for large enclosed trailers or RVs. So that is my major dilemma in a nutshell. The money to improve the road past the bridge and to provide that side with the necessary utilities has since been put in the road budget, but it will not be available until the year 2012…quite a ways off. So the question is how do we develop a trail head in the mean time? One idea I had is to approach private land owners near Mountain Drive to discuss the possibility of them opening campgrounds. There are several areas that are near the major highways such as 25E and 119 that are in close enough proximity to Mountain Drive that a trailhead near one of these highways would be possible. I will be exploring that possibility in the coming weeks.
At the current time I am working on examining PVA data and comparing it to property line data that Vaughn and Melton has acquired through their mapping of the park property. This can be a very tedious process. One thing we are trying to make sure we don’t do is promote park trails that are actually on property other than what we have on the Asher tract. I am gathering all the trails that we currently have that are in questions and will contact the property owner concerning these trails once I have all the information I need. After we have all trail and property line issues taken care of we will begin editing the map, and hope to have some new trails developed by year’s end.
Another thing I will be working on in the near future will be the formation of a new committee, which will tentatively be called the Bell County Trails Society. My goal is to have this committee help oversee and make recommendations for all things concerning the acquisition and maintenance of new multi-purpose trails in Bell County. In short it will be a committee to help oversee the development of the multiple facets of adventure tourism in the county. I hope to get locals who are passionate about horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, and any other form of trail recreation to assist in the development of promoting trail sports of different varieties.
It is true that I am trying to obtain permission for more legal access to be used by ATVs and Side X Sides in Bell County. We have had some preliminary talks with several landowners who own large tracts here in Bell County and hope to have a large amount of ‘off-park’ riding by early 2009, in the neighborhood of 40,000+ acres. This will give people legal access to many of the lands that are illegally ridden in Bell County currently. This will also give our club the opportunity to showcase many different areas of the county outside of Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park (aka Mountain Drive). We also know that if our club has legal access to this land, we can improve the land for its landowner. We hope to work with Kentucky Fish and Game in acquiring and maintaining some of these new lands. We have done a lot of clean up on Mountain Drive as far as trash pick-up and trail maintenance, and will do the same on this new stretch of land if we are given access to it. We as a club are out to prove that we can help offset the negative impact done by ATVs and hopefully help change the mindsets of people who ride their ATVs without any regard for nature.
I am also about to start the process of connecting Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park to Black Mountain Park in Harlan County. We have discussed this for several months and have not been able to solidify a route yet due to working on other projects. Besides being busy for the past month or so working on grants, I have also been really involved in helping my friend Ben Barnett get Bell County’s Enhanced 911 system up and running. After talking with several folks who know the area pretty well, we have got a basic idea of how we think the route should go. We are trying to minimize traveling on black top as much as possible, and also trying to minimize having to pass by houses. However the only way we can do this is by gaining permission from more land owners in order to cross the blacktop in the most efficient way possible. As soon as we get a route to connect our two riding areas, it will be a major first step for the Kentucky Adventure Tourism Project. We hope to bring you updates on this soon.
As a club, the Holler Crawlers are now incorporated. We are excited about the possibility of becoming a 501C3 in the future and have a very intelligent guy helping guide us in that direction. We have a few events coming up. The club will be doing a trash clean up day on Mountain Drive on Saturday, September 13th. There is a members-only cook/camp/ride weekend September 19-21 which will feature live bluegrass music, free food for members, and rides all weekend long. About 40 people from the Southern SXS Riders will be in that weekend and have already booked up the Holiday Inn Express. Hope to have several of the Ridge Runners down as well.
Anyway that’s about it for now I suppose. Anyone with any questions about the park, the Holler Crawlers, or adventure tourism in Bell County can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at my work email, email@example.com. Also by phone at 606-302-1943.