Tag Archives: Community
Our Deepest Fear? Elkhorn City Can be Powerful … beyond measure! A mini Manifesto on Economic Development in Elkhorn City, Kentucky
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ …
One of the greatest challenges that we face as a community in Elkhorn City is the fear that we as a community are powerful beyond measure. The above quote from Marian Williamson not only applies to individuals but it also applies to collective groups. I’ve struggled with trying to build Elkhorn City for over 15 years through the Elkhorn City Are Heritage Council which is a non-profit whose mission is to protect and to preserve the heritage of Elkhorn City and to promote eco and adventure tourism in Elkhorn City.
It is almost a cliché at this point that Elkhorn City has so much potential. The favorite quote I always hear is “Elkhorn City can be another Gatlinburg.” It is true we could be another Gatlinburg … we could be a lot of things ,we could be one of the greatest tourism towns in the Commonwealth of Kentucky bar none. Elkhorn City has all the natural assets that it takes to attract visitors to our community to enjoy the mountains, the river, the trails, and the unique heritage that we have as the people. But we as a community has always been afraid that if we do build it they will come and what if they do what will we become.
The quote about Gatlinburg is always amusing to me because I’ve never wanted to be another Gatlinburg I wanted to be Elkhorn City Kentucky. Gatlinburg is crowded and congested and grew at a pace that should have been a little more thought out and a little more slow. The one thing we can learn from the growth of Gatlinburg as a tourism town is that Gatlinburg grew because it was a trail town it is located at the beginning of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park it was a town that catered to people who wanted to go into the smokies to hike, fish, bike, and enjoy nature. That is what started Gatlinburg’s upward climb to a booming economic community.
Elkhorn City also has great natural assets that it sets right in the middle of, no we don’t have a National Park but we’ve got the Breaks Interstate park which is a totally unique and gorgeous park the grand canyon of the south, the Russell Fork river, the pine mountain trail, the new great eastern trail which is going to be coming through Elkhorn city, the trans America bike trail which already runs through Elkhorn city. We see growth and visitors right now on a small level but, there are things we need to do as a community to enhance their experience and to attract more people and we can do it nice good clean intelligent ways that will bring prosperity to our community and the economic growth that we need.
Elkhorn City needs to be an original. In the world of music there’s an old saying that cover bands don’t change the world only original bands do. Perhaps are greatest challenge when you say we could be another Gatlinburg we don’t want to be another Gatlinburg we don’t need to be another Gatlinburg we need to be Elkhorn City. But that doesn’t mean that we do not look for the positives and the negatives regarding the Gatlinburg story and how they became a trail town. It also goes back to the point I made earlier, that we are powerful beyond measure and that’s probably our greatest fear as a community is that we could be “another Gatlinburg” I know that’s one thing that scares me to death because I don’t think we should be another Gatlinburg but we should take some of the positive things that were done in Gatlinburg and learn from them and don’t go the negative ones.
For instance, the new US 460 is coming along we need to do our downtown development in a nice quaint way that is inviting for a person to come downtown and spend a few hours that is not hectic, that is not loud, that your time in Elkhorn City flows just like the river with quaint shops and quaint things to do.
Elkhorn City’s greatest asset is that all the trails (Pine Mountain, Great Eastern and Trans-America) lead into the middle of the town. Can we grow in other aspects in what I call the noisy way Gatlinburg did? Sure we can, we have annexed all the property along US 460 so we can grow we can take that kind of growth and put it there and become a unique quaint downtown that attracts the cultural heritage tourist and the adventure tourist and the trail user.
The trail user right now is our most important demographic for bringing new money into the city. I myself has personally observed so far in 2012 483 bicyclist along the trans American trail and I observe them when I’m eating at one of our local restaurants, that means there eating there too, and they are usually spending about 10 dollars a head, according to the information that I have from the owner, so its easy to do the math on what kind of impact that trail has on that restaurant. And you also have to understand that I didn’t see all the users on the trail some came through, I missed some, and some did business other places. Right now the only businesses that are capitalizing on our trail users are our restaurants but there’s other ways that other retail businesses can capitalize on the trail users. Take a look at Sheryl Ramey’s recent blog post on my blog about how she came back to town as a tourist and wanted to spend some money on items from her home town that she could take back and show her friends, whether it be trinkets or any number of things. Not one of our retail businesses had any Elkhorn City souvenirs!
One of the most important things we can do as a community is develop the Elkhorn City Area Heritage Council’s, Russell Fork white water play park initiative in downtown,(link) which is a project which will go in and improve the river from a river users prospective from a kayaker and a paddler prospective and from a tubers prospective. There’s six specific places downtown where the river can be tweaked in a safe way that would promote more boaters to boat the section of river that is downtown and make it more exciting and thrilling for them.
We know from a host of other communities who have done similar projects that the economic impact of white water parks in the downtowns can be anywhere from 1 million dollars a year up to 10 million dollars a year. We know that for every boater that are in these white water parks there’s usually 10 to 20 people who are observing them so that would create a wonderful opportunity for more people to be spending time downtown which opens up all kinds of potential for new business in the downtown area whether it be coffee shops retail businesses any number of things. We can also look at development of the river from the prospective of a business development the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) established an outdoor recreation company located at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the Nantahala River in rural Swain County, North Carolina, that has proven to be a shining success story. Originally a roadside inn, the company has evolved into one of the largest recreation companies in the nation and one of western Carolina’s largest employers. In 2010, NOC contributed $85,386,489 to the local economy while providing a total of 1,061 jobs. Another successful eco-tourism example is nearby Damascus, Virginia where 20,000 people hike into town for the annual “Trail Days” celebration and if we do things to improve our river and improve our trail systems and improve the users we can have a business or businesses that have just as much economic impact on our community and we’ll raise the quality of lives for all the residents it would raise property values enormously and help us through hard economic times.
Two Years ago today I wrote a post entitled 10 things Elkhorn City Must do to Thrive! Now we are going to take a look at each one of the 10 things individually and point out the specific steps that can be taken to accomplish each point. (The good news is we have already accomplished items 3a 3b and 3c and the mayor is doing a great job with item 4.)
Number 1 on the list was “Establish a Local Tourism and Convention
Commission.” The Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association has written an excellent document entitled “Tourism 101 Manual “ on how to establish a local tourism commission. The first question is…
What is a Tourist Commission? Let’s take a look at what the manual has to say.
“A tourist commission is a nonprofit organization formed to promote tourism in a community and is typically funded by a transient room tax also known as a “bed tax.” The funds collected for a tourist commission can be used only for the promotion of tourism. The tourist commission is governed by a board, which gets the community involved as well as the local government, because representatives from both must participate. A paid staff at the tourist commission promotes and develops tourism in the community. This staff typically produces brochures, attends travel shows, and promotes the community outside the region by following an organized marketing and advertising plan. As a result of this type of promotion, tourism properties in the area can expand, benefiting the local economy.”
The second question we should ask is, Why do we need one? We need one for alot of reasons. First and foremost, is having a local body as a Tourism Commission enables a community to chart its own course in marketing itself and it tourism development. Elkhorn City would not be dependent on Pikeville and Pike County’s Tourism Commission. All the other reasons will be apparent as I go through the process of how Elkhorn City can establish a local tourism commission.
The Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS), specifically, KRS 91A.350(2) enables Elkhorn City can establish its’ own local tourist and convention commission for the purpose of promoting and developing convention and tourist activities and facilities.
Who is on the Tourist Commission?
In Kentucky KRS 91A.360 governs membership of Tourist and Convention Commissions.
In Elkhorn City, a Tourist and Convention Commission members would be appointed by the mayor with at least 2 citizens form the local city hotel and motel association. Elkhorn City does not have a hotel and motel association. In this instance KRS 91A.360 states, “If no formal local city or county hotel and motel association is in existence upon the establishment of a commission or upon the expiration of the term of a commissioner appointed pursuant to this subsection, then up to three (3) commissioners shall be appointed by the appropriate chief executive officer or officers from persons residing within the jurisdiction of the commission and representing local hotels or motels”
1 commissioner form the local restaurant association
“If no formal local restaurant association or associations exist upon the establishment of a commission or upon the expiration of the term of a commissioner appointed pursuant to this subsection, then one (1) commissioner shall be appointed by the appropriate chief executive officer or officers from persons residing within the jurisdiction of the commission and representing a local restaurant”
1 form the local chamber of commerce
If no local chamber of commerce is in existence upon the establishment of a commission or upon the expiration of the term of a commissioner appointed pursuant to this subsection, then one (1) commissioner shall be appointed by the appropriate chief executive officer or officers from persons residing within the jurisdiction of the commission and representing local businesses”
(D) 2 commissioners by the mayor
KRS 91A.390 provides that the City can enact a Room Tax 3% and that “(2) All moneys collected pursuant to this section and KRS 91A.400 shall be maintained in an account separate and unique from all other funds and revenues collected, and shall be considered tax revenue for the purposes of KRS 68.100 and KRS 92.330”
Elkhorn City can also enact a Restaurant tax through KRS 91A.400 Restaurant tax in cities of the fourth and fifth class.
In addition to 3% room tax a 3% sales tax on … All moneys collected must be turned over to the Tourist and convention commission in the city as provided by KRS 91A.350 to 91A.390.
It would not hurt any of our current business by the imposing of the additional taxes. Believe me we all pay them when we go to Pikeville to eat out or most any other town in Kentucky. It does not make sense for the businesses to complain about the extra taxes since all the money goes back into market and promoting Elkhorn City which then brings in more business.
Here are some helpful links for planning and help in this area:
Elkhorn City Economic Development and Tourism Planning Resources
On Thursday, June 14th, the Elkhorn City Council fielded a presentation from Elaine Wilson the Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Adventure Tourism. Ms. Wilson came speak to our town about Elkhorn City becoming a Kentucky Certified Trail town. She spoke about the trail town concept and the many things the community can do to improve the experience of the trail user. The topics ranged from improving signage to purchasing bike racks and from marketing to economic development.
Someone with resources, expertise in their field, and the potential to literally put our town on the map took time out of their schedule to come and tell us how blessed we are to have the quality and caliber of trails we have in this town.
When we think about all the things our town is blessed with, from the towering mountains, to our proximity to the Breaks, to the river running through the center of downtown, it’s not often we think about the trails connecting our town to the world. Stretching back to the days the railroad brought prosperity to our town, we prospered because we are in a place that people enjoy coming to, or traveling through.
There are three primary trails that are connected to our town: the Pine Mountain Trail, the Trans-America 76 Bike Trail, and the Russell Fork River. Whether, hiking, biking, or kayaking our town connects you to three remarkable trail systems that offer exactly what you’re looking for in your area of recreation. The Great Eastern Trail is also coming through town in the near future.
The Pine Mountain Trail currently offers 48 miles of virgin trail. Carved one mile at a time by volunteer labor, this expansive trail is planned to stretch from Elkhorn City to Jellico, Tennessee over 111 miles and inclusion in the Great Eastern Trail by its completion. Well blazed, and following the ridge of the expansive Pine Mountain, every couple of miles it feels like a brand new trail. The scenery always shifting from the top of the peaks rolling through dense woodland, past geologic oddities and historic sites every scene reinvigorates you with the sense of purpose that only distance hiking can offer. It’s seclusion at its finest, braving the wilderness with no civilization within 5 miles; every footstep becomes a reminder that only your determination and will power can see you through to the end.
The Transamerica 76 Bike Trail spans from coast to coast, and sees travelers of all kinds. From professional bikers to amateurs with a good cause, bikers flock from all over the world and pass through our town in the process. Just the count from the Rusty Fork regulars tallied 43 states and 17 countries in one year.
Finally, the Russell Fork River for all intents and purposes is a mecca for white water enthusiasts. One of the most technically challenging rivers in the world, with rapids rating as high as the scales go the Russell Fork is another worldwide draw that runs right through the heart of our business sector. Despite the difficulty of paddling through the Gorge, the river breaks down into three and a half sections that range from beginner status on the Lower Russell Fork from Ratliff Hole to Elkhorn, to intermediate on the Upper put-in at Flannigan dam, to world class from Garden Hole down.
Our town has gifts and natural amenities that allow us a sturdy foundation. Just the same as we built our homes upon them, we can also build industry. We can build our community, and we can share in the prosperity from them. Most of all, we can build our own future, and create the world we want to live in.
Check out the above links and you will see why Elkhorn City needs to become a Kentucky Trail Town.
Next post will be on the Trial Town process and how we get it done.
On a beautiful Sunday morning in April, at 8:30 am I hear …”Pre wa wa daddy” …. “Pre wa wa daddy.” At first I can’t make out what my, two year old, Tymee Jo is saying. She just turned two on March 17th and single words have started to become simple sentences. “What, baby girl?” I said. “Pre wa wa, daddy!” It then dawns on me that she wants to go see the pretty water.
She and I have been taking a short drive up to Ratliff Hole on Saturday mornings, since the warm weather has begun, and I have told her to look at the Pretty Water. Ratliff Hole is the local name for the Breaks Interstate Park, river access area about a mile east of Elkhorn City, Kentucky.
She enjoys it and is content for up to half an hour setting in my lap and watching the in the pretty water.
Upon reflection, I have realized that she is content watching the pretty water because I am content watching the pretty water. There is a cleansing that comes with watching the pretty water. It seems that the ups and downs, bumps and bruises, and stress and strain of the week float away with the rush of river. The sound of the water is soothing and the smell of spring is invigorating.
Often, time slows down when Tymee Jo and I go watch the pretty water. The hour we spend together at the river is a source of renewal and strength for me and an amazing time of wonder and discovery for her. I sometimes look at Tymee Jo’s red hair reflecting against the clear green river and realize that all is perfect at this time in this place.
So if you ever need some time for reflection and renewal come and see the pretty water. You will probably see Tymee Jo and I sitting by the river.
The pretty water in this post is the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River. It is the
most pristine waterway in the Commonwealth of Kentucky form the Virginia state line through Elkhorn City, Kentucky. The Russell Fork is a destination for thousands of boaters, paddlers, fisherman and pretty water watchers like Tymee Jo and I.