Op-Ed

CHARTING A NEW DAY | Can Eastern Kentucky - in all its confounding complexity, beauty and blight - reinvent itself?

Less than 50 miles from Lexington, the beauty and majesty of the Eastern Kentucky mountains start to come into focus along the Mountain Parkway.
Less than 50 miles from Lexington, the beauty and majesty of the Eastern Kentucky mountains start to come into focus along the Mountain Parkway. Lexington Herald-Leader

We are devoting our pages today and tomorrow to something that's weighing on a lot of minds: the future of Eastern Kentucky.

More than 1,500 people have taken up Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers on their invitation to gather tomorrow in Pikeville to kick off a process of reimagining the region and rejuvenating its economy. They're calling it SOAR for Shaping Our Appalachian Region.

No one should expect an overnight transformation. But here you can read some interesting ideas for getting started.

We solicited a variety of viewpoints, and the response was so strong we have an overflow of commentaries to publish in coming weeks. If you would like to contribute your thoughts and ideas, we ask that you focus on the future and keep it to no more than 500 words, emailed to hleditorial@herald-leader.com.

Opening our pages to writers from the mountains also serves as a capstone to the Herald-Leader's yearlong project, "Fifty Years of Night," revisiting Harry Caudill's landmark Night Comes to the Cumberlands.

Much has changed since the Whitesburg lawyer's book was published in 1963 and brought the nation's eye to Appalachia's poverty. But too much has stayed the same. A place and people whose back-breaking work and natural resources produced huge wealth for other places and people still struggle to thrive. Irreversible declines in the coal industry and in coal severance tax revenue have left no choice but to try something new — after 50 years of night, it's time for a new day.

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