Call to Order and Roll Call
The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism was held on Thursday, September 20, 2012, at 1:00 PM, at the Salato Wildlife Education Center, Frankfort. Representative Leslie Combs, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Representative Leslie Combs, Co-Chair; Senators Jared Carpenter, Denise Harper Angel, Katie Stine, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Royce W. Adams, John "Bam" Carney, Larry Clark, Will Coursey, Mike Denham, Ted Edmonds, Jim Gooch Jr., Keith Hall, Mike Harmon, Melvin B. Henley, Dennis Horlander, Wade Hurt, Dennis Keene, Thomas Kerr, Kim King, Martha Jane King, Adam Koenig, Tom McKee, Terry Mills, John Short, Fitz Steele, Wilson Stone, Addia Wuchner, and Jill York.
Guests: Marcheta Sparrow, Secretary and Elaine Wilson, Executive Director, Office of Adventure Tourism, Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet; Mark Mangeot, Legislative Liaison, Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources; and Shad Baker, County Extension Agent, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Letcher County Cooperative Extension.
A motion by Representative Clark to approve the minutes of the July 19, 2012, meeting passed by voice vote, following a second by Representative McKee.
Mark Mangeot, Legislative Liaison for the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, welcomed the committee to the Salato Wildlife Education Center. He gave a brief overview of the Salato Center, which hosts 75,000 visitors, mostly school groups, annually.
Secretary Marcheta Sparrow, Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, introduced Elaine Wilson, Executive Director of the Office of Adventure Tourism. Secretary Sparrow noted Ms. Wilson’s previous experience and commended her work with the agency.
Ms. Wilson explained the mission of the Kentucky’s adventure tourism program. The office published an updated guide outlining the state’s adventure tourism activities and outfitters based on an in-depth, statewide study. The study revealed a lack of understanding of adventure tourism, little coordination to maximize services and supplies, and no specific destinations. The office website was updated to be more appealing and user friendly. This spring, a marketing campaign included online marketing that has proven to be successful based on user interest.
Ms. Wilson noted an increase in adventure tourism infrastructure, with some projects made possible by the tourism loan program. There are seven new zip line businesses and three horse camps, as well as more multi-use trails at Kentucky state parks, new construction projects, and ongoing efforts with private landowners for more land access. The economic impact of adventure tourism can be up to $240 per person per overnight visit. The average adventure traveler is generally more educated and affluent than the typical traveler. Adventure tourism is beneficial from a health standpoint because outdoor activities tend to require greater physical exertion.
Ms. Wilson explained the Kentucky Trail Town Development and Recognition Program. By definition, a trail town is a portal to a trail system, either by water or land access that offers services and supplies for trail users. To qualify, participating towns should provide friendly and knowledgeable services about trails and services, and be willing to share their culture and history. The Office of Adventure Tourism has connected with potential and participating towns, gathered information, and provided guidance and resources where needed. The Trail Town Task Force, composed of various interest groups and community officials, was created to help oversee the process. Ms. Wilson noted that Gatlinburg, Tennessee is one of the most successful examples of a trail town. The trails rely on community volunteers to keep them maintained.
Responding to Representative Clark’s question about increased usage and access to his district’s stand-alone parks, Secretary Sparrow said the cabinet would look into the matter as the agency has been working on other park-related issues in the area.
Representative Kim King pointed out that the state is attracting specialty events like the “Warrior Dash” in Marion County, the “Capitol City Dash” in Franklin County, and the “Bourbon Chase” along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Ms. Wilson added that the state hosted two national adventure events, and the state parks are hosting an “Adventure Race” series.
Representative Wuchner noted that participating communities are struggling to create jobs, and the new economy presents a cultural change for them.
Representative York thanked the Adventure Tourism Office for assisting Olive Hill in becoming a trail town. She said it is a process of using what is already in place--connecting towns along trails that already exist.
Representative Hall said West Virginia has experienced significant increased interest in historical sites that were featured in the History Channel’s The Hatfield and McCoy Feud, which had 17.4 million viewers. He said given that significant coal severance funding was used to map the Hatfield and McCoy Trail in Kentucky, the state should embrace the new interest in the area.
Responding to Representative McKee’s question, Ms. Wilson said the office is promoting more horse trails in Harrison County where feasible and there are ongoing discussions with the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources about horse trails. Secretary Sparrow said the cabinet will contact the department as they are unsure of the plans for that particular land as there are legal limits on some land usage. Representative McKee suggested setting aside some of the property for horse trails and/or closing horse trails during hunting season if necessary.
Representative Edmonds asked tourism officials to work closely with state and federal forestry officials with the Natural Bridge project. Ms. Wilson said the agency has a good relationship with state forestry officials, and Secretary Sparrow said the agency would follow up on the matter.
Representative Short asked if tourism officials could ensure the Knott County Trail Ride continues with the possible absence of the program’s primary promoter. Secretary Sparrow said the cabinet would work with organizers and community leaders to keep the event going.
Senator Carpenter thanked Secretary Sparrow and Ms. Wilson for the work done in Liberty and Casey County in regard to a recent adventure tourism event.
Ms. Wilson introduced Shad Baker, Extension Agent with the Letcher County Cooperative Extension. Mr. Baker spoke about the development of the Pine Mountain Trail as part of the Appalachian Great Eastern Trail. He said while other states have extensively promoted their trails, Kentucky had not. In setting up Pine Mountain Trail, coordinators began working with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. A nonprofit group was formed to promote the development of these trails. The Patton administration designated the Pine Mountain State Scenic Trail. Since then, the project has received approximately $4 million in grants. Currently, the trail is 56 miles long and extends from the Breaks Interstate Park to Kingdom Come State Park. There are three overnight shelters with a fourth under construction in Pike County. Because there are few access points to the trail, they are working on creating more trail head. He noted that all work is done through volunteer labor. The trail has had over 4,000 volunteers with 160,000 hours and $2.5 million in donated labor.
Ms. Wilson said promoting the trail opens opportunities for communities that are desperate for work that will allow residents to stay in their communities.
The trail has acquired almost 1,800 acres of land from 200 landowners and developed 38 miles of trail. The agency is in the process of acquiring land from the Department of Fish and Wildlife that will add another eight miles to the trail.
Mr. Baker said it was discovered at the Southeast Foot Trails Conference that there is a system of trails developing throughout the southeast United States that can easily be connected, and the planning process is underway. Kentucky is in competition with Virginia, which who strongly promotes adventure tourism. Pike County lobbied the Great Eastern Trail Board to keep as much of the trail in Kentucky as possible. Some of the challenges faced are land acquisition, which is a slow process, and expanding the volunteer base. Kentucky has not been very successful in the recruitment of volunteer labor. He is working with college and university programs for earned college credit.
Mr. Baker noted the importance of trail towns because they become as much a part of the experience as the trail itself. Hikers look to these towns for food and lodging, and their spending has a significant financial impact in these communities.
Responding to Representative Stone’s question, Mr. Baker said the state prefers property easements to access land, and this method is advantageous because some landowners do not want to part with their land.
Responding to Representative Wuchner’s question, Mr. Baker said the trail between Breaks Interstate Park and US 23 is in good shape. There are no shelters, but one is under construction. The remote areas of the Highland Trail section are in poor condition due to difficulty in access. Mr. Baker is trying to obtain the section running through the Pine Mountain Wildlife Management Area from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Representative Carney said it would be good for the media to cover the volunteer efforts along the trail. When questioning safety issues, Mr. Baker said all the shelter areas have good cell phone coverage.
Representative Carney said he hoped the state is doing all it can to promote trail heads and ATV trails as it has become a multimillion industry throughout the southeastern United States.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 2:30 PM.