Some Letcher County landowners got money to build high-tunnel greenhouses to push the seasons. Some got fencing. Kids at one school got an outdoor classroom, and anglers at Fishpond Lake got a dock.
For those things, and for partnerships with other government agencies and nonprofits, the Letcher County Conservation District got the Kentucky Community Luminary Award at the 43rd annual Kentucky Governor’s Conference on Energy and the Environment.
“ It reflects the work we’ve done not only for the little projects we have done in the county, but also the efforts we’ve made to work with other organizations,” said Ron Brunty, Chair of the Conservation District Board.
Brunty said the district partnered with the Letcher Area Vocational School welding and carpentry classes to build piers for Jenkins and Fishpond lakes; paid for an outdoor classroom for West Whitesburg Elementary School and Whitesburg Middle School, and picnic tables and outdoor classroom materials at Lilley Cornett Woods; and gives 50-50 cost-share grants to local farmers for fencing, fertilizer, cover crop seeds, beehives, and technical assistance. The district is working with Letcher County Farm Bureau for an agriculture brochure and guide, with Headwaters Inc. on a federal grant for water improvement, and with East Kentucky Extractions on development of a hemp farming industry here.
“We have been very fortunate,” Brunty said. “A lot of people provided us with the opportunity to partner with them and do good things for the county.”
The Conservation District Board is made up of seven members: Brunty, Jim McAuley, Tex Isaac, Billy K. Banks, Sandra Campbell, Tom Dollarhide, and Randy Bailey. The board works with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, which provides a federal employee to work in the county.
The Conservation District is a special taxing district that is included in each landowner’s property tax bill. The board members are elected, but in practice, candidates rarely appear on the ballot because they are unopposed.