Adventure tourism promises to improve the economy across Eastern Kentucky, but not everyone's convinced.
Lieutenant Governor Mongiardo was at the Kentucky Elk Country Expo Banquet where he said hunting is just one form of adventure tourism, something he says Kentucky needs.
In the last 40 years, Lieutenant Governor Mongiardo says nothing has changed. He says Eastern Kentucky still has some of the most distressed counties in all of Appalachia and it's time for an economic boost. “We've got assets like the largest elk herd east of the Rocky Mountains; we have a trail system that the coal industry has given to us that's just laying there dormant.”
Lieutenant Governor Mongiardo says Kentucky has not taken advantage of its assets and strengths and adventure tourism will help Kentucky's economy grow. “We've done a lot of research on this, and the number one reason people go somewhere is for a trail. Whether it's for a hiking trail, or a biking trail, or horse trail or a four wheeler trail. If that's first on the list then we need to focus on that.”
In a time of statewide budget cuts, some wonder if we should be spending money on adventure tourism, and some landowners still have concerns about trails that could affect their property. Doug Hensley says once officials figure out the answers to these concerns, adventure tourism will be a reality and an opportunity. “When we get that done, there's going to be lots of people coming to east Kentucky, not only to hunt elk, to view elk but to ride horses, to ride ATV’s.”
Lieutenant Governor Mongiardo says, “Well the amazing thing is it does not cost a whole lot because the trail system is already there, the expense that has been put into it has been put into by the coal industry who has built these trails to haul coal or the logging industry.”
Lieutenant Governor Mongiardo says project expenses will be mostly paid for by requiring people to get permits to ride. He says, right now they're taking inventory of the trails and seeing what land needs to be preserved, and what land needs to be set aside for fish and wildlife.