CUMBERLAND, Ky (WYMT) - Folks with the Tri-Cities Heritage Development Corporation tell WYMT they are starting the long road to recovery. Cumberland, Benham and Lynch are now one step closer to "Trail Town" designation.
The Tri-City area of Harlan County has seen better days. John Adams is the Mayor of Lynch and he said the community's population continues to decline.
"I am a third generation. My family came over from Italy. I have seen it whenever it had 10,000 people down to around 800 now. It is hard to keep up the town," said Adams.
So now the question is how do you save communities struggling with a down economy? The development corporation believes they can do that by highlighting the area's mountains.
Lonnie Riley chairs the group's Equestrian Trails Committee and said building an economy around the region's natural beauty is a smart move.
"It is not something that comes and goes. It is not like the coal industry. It is not like an industry that comes and goes. These are going to be here forever," said Riley.
Bobbie Gothard is the executive director of the Tri-Cities Heritage Development Corporation. She said a new trail system stretching between the three cities will help the area's economy.
"We hope that along these trails we would be able to develop small businesses that would give job opportunities to our people," said Gothard.
Some sections of the trail still need to be completed. However, others, like a portion which runs through Benham, are already open to the public.
Randy Williams volunteers with the project and said walkers, runners and bikers can use the trails.
"All you have to do is ride your bicycle to all those places," said Williams.
But they are not stopping there. The planning committee hopes to add campgrounds and horse trails along the way.
"They look at the natural beauty, the majestic mountains that we have and they are very excited to find a place like this that they have not found before. It is like we are the best kept secret," said Riley.
We are told the Tri-Cities should be "Trail Town" certified as soon as they sign a contract with the National Railroad Preservation Group. That organization owns much of the old railroad tracks that would be used for the trails.