QUICKSAND, Ky (WYMT) - It could be eastern Kentucky's ticket to economic recovery. Many counties are looking at ways to beef up their tourism industry and Breathitt County is no exception.
But before they move forward with plans for an ATV park, they have to address a growing problem.
You might not know it but Breathitt County is home to hundreds of horses that roam free on mountain tops. Debby Spencer is a volunteer trying to help figure out how to protect the animals while also controlling their spread.
"The population of the horses is growing and growing and it is becoming an issue," said Spencer.
Experts tells WYMT many of them were simply dropped off and after years of breeding, they are holding up plans for a new ATV park.
Bill Reed works for Managed Adventure Systems, which helped build the Knott County ATV Park. Now, his company is aiding officials in Breathitt County combat the horse problem as they move forward with plans for their own park.
"We want to do it top notch and do it right the first time," said Reed.
That is why several volunteers from across the state have gathered along a stretch of Kentucky 1098 where many of the horses graze just steps from the road. Organizers are hoping to learn more about the animals so they can protect them and residents in the area.
"They come back down the mountains and they get into the roads to lick the salts. They get on people's property," said Spencer.
As a result, they are taking an inventory and making plans for the future of the animals.
"If they have got a horse up here, all we are trying to say is this is someone's horse. Then the one's that are not, we are going to try to get health care for them and try to find new homes for some of them," said Spencer.
The project is headed up by county magistrates, like Ray Moore, who are not afraid to pick up a bale of hay if it will help the area.
"This is all we do have left. The mines are gone. The farming is gone and we definitely need tourism in our county," said Moore.
Moore adds they hope to create a horse sanctuary in the coming years.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or ASPCA donated the hay that volunteers are using to attract the horses as they catalog them.