This article was previously published in the May 14, 2015 edition of the Citizen's Voice & Times newspaper...
The Estill Action Group met for its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 6 to discuss the Kentucky Trail Town application process and several other community development projects.
EAG has agreed to take the lead with the trail town application with the hope that Irvine and Ravenna become certified trail towns. The application program helps the community create a vision for its future, as well as venues for locally-made products and cultural performances. Once Trail Town status is achieved, towns are put on maps that are distributed around the state. Other benefits of becoming certified Trail Towns include matching funds for marketing, and grant money for signs, maps and guides.
Francine Bonny, who has been involved with Trail Town efforts since the beginning, presented to EAG about the process and benefits of applying. Bonny called the application “a big process,” and said it requires work from several committees. Part of the application involves identifying amenities such as hospitals, camping spots, and trails as well as services and events. The application requires forming five committees. They include a trail route advisory committee that will inventory existing and potential trails across the county, a merchant committee that will work with existing businesses and seek to fill niches with new businesses, a volunteer committee responsible for organizing volunteers, a signage committee to direct both locals and tourists to destinations, and a funding, education and public relations committee that will promote the trail town concept.
Director of the Estill Development Alliance, Joe Crawford, called the process very structured and said it takes a group of people to complete. President of EAG Lindsey Rogers said committees will be chosen during the group's next meeting. Volunteers are needed and encouraged to attend. Towns already designated as Trail Towns in Kentucky are Livingston, Dawson and Morehead. Bonny pointed out that the potential for drawing significant tourism dollars into the county is here, noting a study done in 2006 which said $5 million was spent in the county then. The Mountain Mushroom Festival and other local festivals bring a lot of dollars into the county. She also said the Director of Adventure Tourism for the state of Kentucky, Elaine Wilson, will be in Irvine on May 28 to meet with both mayors, the county judge and other county leaders.
Another project in the works is a business plan competition. Crawford said the EDA continues to work to organize that effort dubbed “Revive the Vine.” Anyone from the community, or anyone who is willing to locate here, is invited to participate in the competition. In conjunction with the competition, Yvonne Harrison, a small business coach for the Center for Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, and Technology (CEDET), said her organization has received a grant to train anyone who would like to learn how to start their own business. Trainings include information about accounting, marketing and development of business plans. (For further details, Yvonne may be reached at 859-622-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Additionally, County Surveyor Justin Rogers, who has been closely involved with the development of the Lily Mountain Nature Preserve, reminded the group that the preserve is now open by request for guided tours. The preserve is open only to foot traffic for now, and two trails have been completed and marked. The property has caretakers living on site who will eventually be responsible for opening gates to the public. An event called “Forest of the Undead,” is already being planned for the weekend before Halloween.
Cindi Cusick of Tea Horse Studio suggested the Red Lick Artisan tour that took place last Mother's Day weekend on the Madison County end of Red Lick (with the exception of Snug Hollow) could be expanded to include the Estill County side of Red Lick for next year's event.
Other EAG activities planned for the month of May include: • May 12-A meeting for those who have signed up for community garden plots • May 29-A hike/picnic to Tucker Abner cave on Chestnut Stand • May 30-A Zumbathon fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the opening day of Farmers' Market in Ravenna beside the park • June 20- Speedy Spore River Run • October 23-24-“Forest of the Undead,” a Halloween event at the Lily Mountain Nature Preserve