Op-Ed

How much will E. Ky. destroy in the goal of attracting tourists?

The Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River in Eastern Kentucky has some of the best whitewater rapids in the Southeast, drawing kayakers from around the world for some events.
The Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River in Eastern Kentucky has some of the best whitewater rapids in the Southeast, drawing kayakers from around the world for some events.

Just how much of anything is enough has baffled science since excess became more available and overdoing most fashionable.

How much moonshine is enough was answered elegantly by Harold Abshire, who declared that a mule’s ear full of moonshine is plenty. But you couldn’t always pay attention to Harold who also claimed that he used to roll BBs down a board and a frog would eat one after another and get so full of metal that it could not jump.

See what I mean about Harold.

But a mule’s ear worth of tourism is plenty.

There is a principle of particle physics that says that observing something changes the thing being observed. That is certainly going to be true in the mountains as we seek to lure tourists to come look at us and see if we have shoes or not.

We could easily end up as some hideous place like Gatlinburg. How far are we willing to go to destroy our wonderful way of life in the uplands just to get tour buses in here to look at signs or visit distilleries?

That fundamental question is being put to the test at Elkhorn City, the most beautiful town in the Eastern United States, where one of the most dangerous and exciting whitewater adventures in the nation becomes available when the United States Army Corps of Engineers releases massive and unnatural quantities of water from its dam above and flushes out the valley below.

This benefits a couple dozen brave kayakers for a time and they will buy stuff from us for a while and go home, but the place where late-spawning fish used to make more fish will be on its way to Louisiana.

However, this release will wreak havoc on the lifestyle of locals who have lived in and beside their Russell Fork of the Big Sandy for generations. They have baptized in it, fished in it, swam nekkid in it and camped in its low reaches.

Of late, four-wheeling has emerged as sport. The people who use the river as an available and free adjunct to their lives will be turned into not users, but spectators. The number of people who will have use of the river will decline severely, all so the government can create danger artificially so that adventurers can have their adrenaline rush, and we can feel brave watching them not drown.

This all seemed like such a good idea that everybody jumped on it without thinking. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Trump-weary, was glad to promote the water release. The Army Corps of Engineers is glad not to have to hold its water and to do something that does not cost money. Pizza futures in the neighborhood went up.

Here’s how dams get built and how government works: Say the senator from Virginia wants a road, and the senator from Kentucky wants a dam. If the senator from Kentucky don’t give a road, the senator from Virginia don’t give a dam.

Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at websterlawrencer@bellsouth.net.

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