Kentucky Gold

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Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher has put up more than $523,000 in state grant money to increase adventure tourism opportunities in eastern Kentucky, with a high priority on trail sports.

"Eastern Kentucky offers several world-class places for people to take part in activities like rock climbing, whitewater rafting and trail sports," said Governor Fletcher. "This new plan gives us a road map for successfully enhancing an existing industry that will bring new visitors, jobs and money to eastern Kentucky."

The Governor announced the funding in conjunction with results of a study showing that increased spending on adventure tourism in eastern Kentucky could bring in more than 130,000 new visitors a year, create more than 1,500 new jobs and have an estimated annual economic impact of nearly $100 million.

The study focused on an 18-county pilot area: Bath, Bell, Breathitt, Estill, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Pike, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Morgan, Perry, Powell, Rowan and Wolfe. The grants of about $20,000 each will be disbursed to the counties.

The money cannot be used to buy equipment or build facilities, but is intended to help county leaders develop their own adventure tourism plan, including mapping out areas that can be used for such activities and creating advertising strategies to attract tourists, according to published reports.

A statement from Fletchers office says he is directing the transportation cabinet to work with counties to assess road needs, including creating or improving roads leading to adventure sites, and directing the department of parks to create a comprehensive plan for renovating or possibly expanding state parks in eastern Kentucky.

The study, conducted by Pros Consulting of Dallas, indicates that 86 percent of the potential tourists who would take advantage of adventure tourism opportunities in Kentucky live within a three-hour drive of the study area.