A January ice storm and a February windstorm downed trees across Kentucky, including in the heavily forested Red River Gorge.
Now the Daniel Boone National Forest has received some of the first Forest Serv ice money from the federal stimulus package to clear trails and roads that still are blocked by fallen timber.
The money is coming just in time, officials say, because warmer weather will bring many more visitors to the forest.
Kentucky will get more than $3 million for three projects. More than $550,000 will be spent in the Gorge and other parts of the Cumberland and Red Bird ranger districts in Eastern Kentucky. The rest will be spent in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Western Kentucky.
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The Forest Service received $1.15 billion from the stimulus package; the Kentucky projects were among the first "out of the chute" when the initial 10 percent were announced last week, said Nancy Ross, a natural-resources staff officer for the Daniel Boone.
"This provides a wonderful opportunity to not only get that work done and restore those areas that are important to the local tourism economy, but also to put some folks to work who are unemployed," Ross said.
Trees are blocking or partially blocking 262 miles of roads and 287 miles of trails, she said. On some roads, trees were cut and shoved out of the way, but the shoulders will now be cleared.
The work could begin in as little as two weeks.
To speed the process, the Daniel Boone will use a contractor already approved for work in Land Between the Lakes, Ross said. Local workers will be hired. Details on how that will happen have not been worked out, but the contractor probably will go to unemployment offices.
People who know how to operate chain saws and heavy equipment will be needed. For trails in the Clifty Wilderness Area, where motorized equipment is prohibited, the work will be done with axes and bow saws.
Workers were brought in from four Western states to clear some of the worst-hit roads and some trails immediately after the storms. In some cases, trail heads needed to be cleared because hikers were parking on the sides of roads, creating traffic hazards.
But nothing was done in the wilderness area. And the Redbird Crest Trail for all-terrain vehicles in the Redbird District still is blocked.
Ross said she did not know how many people will be hired initially. The work calls for what are called six "person-year" jobs, which will be the equivalent of six people working for one year. Because the Forest Service wants the work done much quicker that that, more people will be hired, she said.
The Daniel Boone also anticipates getting more stimulus money for later projects, which would mean more jobs, she said.
The Land Between the Lakes projects include $2 million to work on public buildings and $475,000 to clear roads and access to agricultural fields. Plumbers, carpenters, laborers, sawyers and equipment operators will be hired.