Whitesburg KY
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy

Horse trail is probable, but wagon trail not, judge says

A planned walk-through with representatives of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife along the route of the proposed Pioneer Horse Trail has been delayed until detailed plans and a topographical map can be drawn up, Letcher County Judge Jim Ward told the July meeting of the horse trail committee.

Ward and committee chair Jimmy McIntosh reported a successful meeting with representatives of the Governor’s Office for Local Development, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Dr. Jonathan W. Gassett, and Wildlife Director Dr. Karen Alexy at Kingdom Come State Park. Judge Ward told the horse trail group the meeting had gone very well but the planned wagon trail may not be possible in the immediate future.

“We probably can’t do the wagon trail at this time,” said Ward. “But we can do the leg to Scuttlehole Gap and let them see how it will be done and how we take care of it.”

Ward said it may also be necessary to postpone a planned loop in the trail and keep to one side of the Wildlife Management Area. He said the important thing now is to get the trail started and allow the Fish and Wildlife people to see that damage to the WMA will be kept to a minimum and users of the horse trail will be responsible and good stewards of the land. Ward said the wildlife officials also agreed to send a less stringent list than the one McIntosh received in a letter from Commissioner Gassett and read at last month’s meeting. Ward said the willingness of the trail committee to use hand tools to create the trail and forgo the use of heavy equipment had resulted in the lessened requirements.

“We’ll have to rely on a lot of volunteers,” said Ward. “But we won’t have to do a lot of studies.”

Ward said he will get the county surveyor started on the proposed trail to create the maps required by Fish and Wildlife. Letcher County Extension Agent Shad Baker attended the meeting and recommended getting in touch with the Kentucky Horse Council as well. Baker said the council had done quite a bit of work on new horse trails. McIntosh said he had spoken with a representative of the Horse Council in Frankfort and intends to meet with them again soon.

Judge Ward said he had also spoken to representatives of the Kentucky Department of Transportation who told him the right of way on the newly paved Little Shepherd Trail is too narrow to allow for use by horseback riders. However, Ward said the DOT people also told him there is an excellent chance the old entrance road to the Little Shepherd Trail, which has been closed and blocked off to traffic since US 119 was rebuilt, will be deeded over to the county. He said it is currently listed as abandoned and the roadbed will allow for parking and make it possible to avoid crossing several landowners’ property.

Jimmy McIntosh told Judge Ward he has received a number of questions about the possibility of four-wheelers using the trail but Ward said the Pioneer Trail will have to be limited to horse traffic to accommodate the wishes of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Shad Baker said that on portions of the Pine Mountain Linear State Park near horse traffic, foot traffic and fourwheelers, the part which is used by four-wheelers usually has a lot more garbage strewn on it. Ward said there are much better sites in Letcher County such as reclaimed strip mines which can be made available for four-wheeler use and he hopes to begin working with landowners to develop a series of four-wheeler trails. He said there are a number of sites in the Jenkins area that might be good for four-wheelers.

Judge Ward told the meeting that as soon as the maps are ready and have been presented to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Karen Alexy will arrange to conduct a walkthrough with McIntosh and others. He also said it is very important that good communications have been established with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Ward also told the group that Patty White, east Kentucky field director for the Governor’s Office for Local Development, told him the grant application for trail development filed by the horse trail committee will be held and given special consideration as soon as the wrinkles are ironed out on the WMA.

The next meeting of the Pioneer Horse Trail Committee will be held on August 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Letcher County Tourism Center in Whitesburg.

Leave a Reply