E. Ky. families sign over land for adventure tourism

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - For generations, two eastern Kentucky families have enjoyed more than 10,000 acres of scenic terrain on the outskirts of Buckhorn Lake. Now they have opened up their properties to the public for four-wheeling, horseback riding and hiking.

The heads of the Gay and Abner families decided to lease their land for free as part of a regional push for adventure tourism after monthslong talks with county officials and Lt. Gov.-elect Daniel Mongiardo, a Perry County native who made adventure tourism a part of his campaign.

"As far as we're concerned, we did it to generate revenue - to bring in tourism and business," Darrin Gay, of Buckhorn, said Friday. Gay represented his family in the deal.

The goal is to create an all-terrain vehicle trail that spans over five adjoining counties - Clay, Owsley, Perry, Breathitt and Leslie. Officials hope to have the area accessible to ATV riders by next fall, though long-term plans include trails for horseback riding, hiking and biking.

State and local officials have been trying to capitalize on the notoriously rugged mountains of eastern Kentucky for years. A recent state-commissioned study found that the Kentucky counties best suited for adventure tourism are also the most economically distressed.

That's because the region is characterized by severe terrain that has kept the area from diversifying its economy beyond coal mining.

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