Kentucky towns looking to boost tourism on nearby trails and rivers

bestep@herald-leader.comAugust 22, 2012 

State and local officials are seeking to transform more than 30 Kentucky towns into gateways to the state's trails and rivers in an effort to boost tourism spending.

Gov. Steve Beshear announced Wednesday a new program called Trail Towns, under which the state will advise towns on developing links to nearby trails and rivers, or on building new trails. The state then will help promote the communities and their businesses.

"The Trail Towns program will become a major part of our adventure-tourism effort and will help communities improve their tourism economy," Beshear said in a news release.

Beshear and other officials announced the program in Livingston, a small town in Rockcastle County near the Rockcastle River and the Sheltowee Trace, a trail that runs through the Daniel Boone National Forest.

The program includes helping communities develop signs directing hikers and others to local services and attractions, so outdoor enthusiasts will know what is available, and the community can benefit from the visitors' spending.

Some towns are near great trails, but there is no connection between them, said Elaine Wilson, head of the state adventure-tourism program.

Officials announced the initiative in Livingston because it was the first to apply for the program, Wilson said.

However, more than 30 others have applied to be certified under the program, according to a news release.

Livingston has put hitching posts in town for horseback riders, Wilson said, and there are several tourism-related businesses in town or nearby, including a horse camp, a bicycle-rental shop and a company offering airboat rides on the Rockcastle.

The bicycle shop opened after local officials applied for designation as a trail town, Wilson said.

John Swift, who has a canoe-rental business in Livingston, said he thinks the trail-town designation will bring in more visitors.

"It'll help all the businesses there," said Swift, who attended the announcement about the program.

State agencies will help promote towns certified under the program through maps, Web sites, visitor guides and other promotional material.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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