“The two day workshop kicked off Thursday, December 1, with introductions from ECAHC President Tim Belcher. Stephanie Richards and Steve Ruth followed with details about the ACT and Russell Fork whitewater, including history, achievements and future goals. These presentations were well received and enthusiastically endorsed by the presenters for Barter Theater (Duehring) and Canoe Kentucky (Depenbrock).
Both visiting entities identified and requested local partnership opportunities which was worth the effort in itself. Barter’s resident playwrite will collaborate with ACT and Canoe Kentucky offered material support (canoes/kayaks, accessories) to ECAHC to promote on-stream activities.
John Michael Johnson wrapped up the presentations with an overview of the new US460 project which will be completed and bring 4 lane access to Elkhorn City within 4-5 years. This presents new opportunities to Elkhorn City to establish business districts, expand city limits, and offer more tour-bus based offerings.
After a lunch break, participants broke into two groups for the walking tour/inventory exercise while workshop coordinators moved the show to the Elkhorn City library’s meeting room. Participants finished the day by reporting on the walking tour, identifying primary assets and needs in the downtown area.
Day two was kicked off with presentations from Russ Clark, NPS RTCA, on the economic benefits of blueways and Seth Wheat, Kentucky Adventure Tourism, on the state’s new Trail Town initiative.
The remaining day two group split into sub groups, one arts focused, one adventure tourism focused, to further discuss assets/needs and to begin the process of identifying the 10 actions the city should take to move forward.
Each partipant was then asked to vote on specific suggestions with a series of weighted votes (top 3 priorities) to winnow down the long list of actions. Upon identifying the top 10, by vote, actions, we discussed and finalized the list by consensus.
The workshop produced a number of immediate accomplishments. Partnerships were formed between Barter Theater and ACT and between Kentucky Canoe and ECAHC. These actions were a direct result of interactions in the workshop. Also, a local entrepreneur, at this time, is negotiating a franchise agreement with Canoe Kentucky to open a small canoe livery in Elkhorn City.
A needs inventory was identified with the following wish list:
• Walking bridge rehab
• In-town lodging
• Improved signage (both in town and leading to town)
• Outdoor outfitter store
• Public restroom
A list of action items were identified:
1. A full time tourism/development driver who acts as a Tourism Director/Grant Writer/Business Recruiter
2. Development/Completion of Whitewater Park
3. Pedestrian bridge/walkway repair/rebuild
4. Community Center/Tourism Office/Public Restroom facility (Depot/Railroad museum)
5. Kentucky Trail Town Designation (through office of Adventure Tourism)
6. Better signage leading to town and in town attractions
7. Lodging (B&B, Motel, campgrounds, cabins)
8. Outdoor outfitter/in town canoe/kayak/innertube livery
9. Arts/cultural center/galleries/shops
Since the workshop, there have been several developments that can lead to further progress in Elkhorn City’s master tourism goals.
• Kentucky Trail Town designation in progress
• Awarding of Coal Severance funds in state budget for design and permitting of water park
• Commitment of local businessman to build lodging facility downtown
• Identification and right of way negotiation for Great Eastern Trail from Elkhorn City through Pike County to Matewan, WV.
• New restaurant and new laundromat in downtown area.
• A new partnership with Eastern Kentucky University, University of Kentucky, and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s “After Coal Economic Initiative”.
The design/final document from the follow-up workshop is still under development and should be completed and distributed by July, 2012. This document will include results of the workshop combined with previous design/development documents for Elkhorn City Arts and Tourism goals. This document will be shared among workshop participants and interested parties. It will be the blueprint for the afore-mentioned partnership with EKU, UK, and KFTC.”