Sadieville waits to be discovered as adventure tourism powerhouse

Sadieville's population declined after the end of the railroad boom. In 1908, its population was 600 and the town included three saloons and three hardware stores.
Sadieville's population declined after the end of the railroad boom. In 1908, its population was 600 and the town included three saloons and three hardware stores. Herald-Leader

SADIEVILLE — Sadieville is a small, small place with big, big plans to become a regional adventure tourism powerhouse.

Sadieville's goal is to meld its past with its future as a town noted for its opportunities for hikers, bikers and even horse riders at some of the area's private farms.

"We have some of the most beautiful landscape in the state," said City Clerk Cindy Foster. "People from Cincinnati or Lexington can come here to get away."

Foster — who works only three days a week administering the business of the hamlet — has learned about grant writing, enabling the town to get outside funding for some of its projects. Sadieville also has reached out to organizations including the Kentucky Heritage Council and Kentucky Humanities Council for help.

"We're so small and our resources and manpower are so limited, but we've done a lot of partnerships," Foster said of the city with a population of 320.

How exactly does one go about deciding to become a regional adventure tourism powerhouse?

"When we started the process, we took a look around and decided that we didn't want to be a big commercial center," said Sadieville mayor Claude Christensen, architect of the city's 2010 master plan. "We looked around and said, 'What assets do we have?'"

Sadieville's selling points include its history as a railroad town, the nearby I-75 interchange, and "some of the most scenic countryside in the hills above Lexington. We've got that, and the little country roads, and it's not crowded. It's serene a lot of the time." Christensen said.

The small town's historic district was recently approved for inclusion on the National Register, the nation's official list of historic and archaeological resources deemed worthy of preservation. Kentucky, with nearly 3,300 sites approved, has the fourth largest total among states.

With all that going for it, Sadieville officials hope to create a Heritage Park area that would be used for performances and concerts, and want to see highway businesses such as restaurants and hotels by its interstate linkup. City hall may be relocated from its current location in the old depot and its current space used as a community center.

It's easy to envision all of this from city hall, because "Old Sadieville" is a picturesque sliver of a town.

To say that Sadieville, in northern Scott County, is a wide spot in the road is fair. The train still comes clattering through and older homes appear to burrow into the hills. There's abundant parking along the town's Main Street.

Sadieville's buildings are tucked along its Main Street/Pike Street corridor and include a restored Rosenwald School, one of a group of schools built for the education of blacks in the early 20th century.

A nearby group of upscale suburban houses, a town pavilion, decorative railroad car and a deluxe fire station complete the area, which also includes a playground adjacent to its tiny police station.

The town is so small that in 1999, voters had to turn back a vote to dissolve the town altogether. Sadieville's population fell after the railroad boom ended. In 1908, its population was 600 and the town included three saloons and three hardware stores.

Among the models Sadieville is using is the prospering town of Damascus, Va., near Kingsport, Tenn. Damascus, population 980, is called "Trail Town USA" because four trails converge there — the Appalachian Trail, U.S. Bicycle Route 76, the Iron Mountain Trail and the Virginia Creeper Trail.

With that goal in mind, the town will hold its second "Sadie Hill" Bike Tour on Oct. 12. The race includes routes of various lengths and a chili cookoff lunch.

"If we can build our reputation as a trail town, people will discover ... that you can make your town a destination," Christensen said. "We've built a little bit of a fan base, and people like what we're trying to do there."

"We're here waiting to be discovered," Foster said.

"Sadie Hill" Bike Tour

What: Second annual "Sadie Hill" Bike Tour; distances of 23, 36, 64, 100 miles

When: Oct. 12

Entry: $40 day of ride, which includes a chili cook-off lunch and drinks

More information:

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