More than 60 leaders from all across the Kentucky River watershed gathered yesterday at Gillums Sports Lounge in Richmond, KY for the second meeting of the Kentucky River Water Trail Alliance. Spawned by the growing interest in water trails throughout the country, the Kentucky River is now the focus of developing a 256-mile water trail that would improve access to the river by boaters who enjoy paddling, fishing, and other recreational activities on the river.
The Alliance is off to a great start working together to create an organization of stakeholders that support the development and stewardship of the Kentucky River Water Trail. “Our hope is that this initiative will unify projects and points of interest, improve recreational access to the river, educate communities and promote stewardship of the watershed”, said Pat Banks, the Kentucky Riverkeeper.
Presenters included Alison Bullock of the National Park Service, who gave an overview of what a Kentucky Water Trail includes. Russel Clark of the National Park Service presented on the topic of creating portages around the locks and dams from 1 in Carrolton, KY to 14 in Lee County. The Director of the Kentucky River Authority gave an update on the locks that are being repaired. A water quality report was given by Malissa McAllister from the UK Water Resource Center. The River Authority board member and also director of Lower Howards Creek talked about efforts to preserve the palisades. The Riverkeeper Pat Banks along with Jennifer Haywood gave an update on recent survey information about water recreation in the Kentucky River. Seth Wheat from Kentucky Adventure Tourism spoke about local communities going though the “Trail Town” process and the impact that being designated a trail town has on the local community. Finally, Jim Roe from the Division of Water, Energy & Environment Cabinet shared information on Federal 319 funding opportunities though their department.
After lunch, the room separated into 4 different groups. These breakout groups included Funding, Promotion, Conservation, Access and Paddling. Each group brainstormed ideas about projects and sources for funding that would tie the river community together and promote the KY River.
The Kentucky River Water Trail was selected in 2011 as one of 100 projects across the country to be recognized in the America’s Great Outdoor’s 50-State Report. President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors initiative to develop a 21st Century conservation and recreation agenda. Governor Beshear nominated the Kentucky River Water Trail as one of Kentucky’s two America’s Great Outdoors projects.
The Kentucky River Water Trail Alliance is a project of the Kentucky Riverkeeper, Inc. in partnership with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA), Kentucky River Authority, KY Adventure Tourism, Jessamine County Kentucky River Task Force, Frankfort/Franklin County Tourist & Convention Commission, Canoe Kentucky, and Bluegrass Tomorrow.
Overall the conference was a wonderful meeting of the minds and networking opportunity for local river communities like Irvine and Beattyville, KY. For more information about the KY River Water Trail Alliance visit the Riverkeeper website at www.kyriverkeeper.eku.edu.