Kentucky's state parks will receive a big publicity boost soon, courtesy of cable operator Insight Communications.
The company has partnered with the private citizen-led Kentucky State Parks Foundation to begin airing a series of advertisements promoting the parks and how residents can donate to the foundation to improve trails and other features.
Insight has committed to providing more than $100,000 in in-kind donations, including building a new Web site for the foundation at Kentuckystateparksfoundation.org, producing and filming five advertisements so far, and pledging more than $50,000 of advertising time to air them across Kentucky, Insight spokesman Jason Keller said.
The company's Kentucky markets include Lexington, Louisville, Northern Kentucky, Bowling Green and Henderson.
"We do a lot in the technology world, but we wanted to do something that was also based in Kentucky but reached out to a broader audience, as well," Keller said, noting the roots of the partnership were in the creation last year of a philanthropic arm of the company by its top executives.
"A number of people in our company have expressed interest in the history and heritage of the state," Keller said. "We went out looking for an organization that fit that criteria and found the Kentucky State Parks Foundation."
The private group was formed during the administration of Gov. Ernie Fletcher to raise money to improve the parks.
"We're not the parks department. If a park needs another maintenance truck or to hire staff, that's not our goal," said foundation chairman James Lobb. "But on the other hand, if they need to build trails so handicapped people can get down to see a cemetery and understand its historical significance, that is something we do."
That trail Lobb mentioned was built at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, and the foundation also has funded numerous other projects. It bought reproductions of period surveying equipment for use at Fort Boonesborough State Park so "people can understand what it was like to blaze a trail," and purchased for display at White Hall State Historic Site in Richmond the sword carried by Gen. Green Clay, a relative of Henry Clay, during the War of 1812.
"We're trying to enhance what visitors get out of the parks," Lobb said.
He said the foundation and Insight are looking at their partnership as a multiyear arrangement, and "the local communities in the state ought to benefit immensely from it."
At the core of the partnership is the hope that it will raise awareness of the foundation and how citizens may donate to it to improve the parks.
"We felt we had a greater resource than just cash," Insight's Keller said. "We felt like they could make more money off of donations from people if people just knew that the foundation was there and what they were seeking to accomplish."
Lobb added that the parks "need people who will step up and champion them."
"That's what these ads will do," he said. "They will get that message out across the state to folks who use the parks, know them and love them but don't know about our group ... and how they can participate with us to help and enhance our parks system."
Gil Lawson, spokesman for the state Department of Parks, said the partnership is "a big help to us."
"Any type of help is always appreciated, and this is a great way to expose people to what we have at our state parks," he said.
Insight also has a major platform through its CN|2 channel, which airs across all its Kentucky markets and includes shows about Kentucky politics and sports, and local weather. Keller said, though, that there are no plans to introduce specific programming about state parks.
"We've said all along that we're going to evaluate different programming types that we may want to put on CN|2 in the future, but at this point in time, we don't have any plans for that," he said.