Whitesburg KY
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Path would join downtown Whitesburg to Pine Mountain Trail

A trail system around Whitesburg would allow hikers on the Pine Mountain Trail a way into town to re-supply, eat and spend a night out of the woods.

The proposed trail system would also include a path from Cowan to Pine Mountain Junction, and small boat ramps to allow for canoeing and kayaking on the North Fork of the Kentucky River. The lower trail would allow residents of the Whitco area to walk or bicycle into town while avoiding car and truck traffic, and would provide easy pedestrian access to shopping and medical care from the Housing Authority of Whitesburg.

Citizens interested in the trail system will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, at the Letcher County Tourism Building on Main Street in Whitesburg.

Joel Beverly, owner of Apogee Environmental Consultants and Summit City Café in Whitesburg, said he got the idea for a trail from cities like Hot Springs, N.C., which is on the Appalachian Trail, and Damascus, Va., which has the Creeper Trail.

“Damascus is probably half the size of Whitesburg, yet it has three hotels, four cabin rental places, two coffee shops, a two bike rental shops and many, many restaurants,” Beverly said. “This is what I think Whitesburg and Letcher County should shoot for.”

The trail system will be developed by The Head of Three Rivers Project, a local watershed group affiliated with the Appalachian Coal Country Watershed Team, a joint initiative of the federal Office of Surface Mining and Volunteers In Service to America. One of the group’s core goals is community revitalization through economic development projects, as well as those that celebrate and increase awareness and understanding of local history and culture.

Sam Adams, coordinator of The Head of Three Rivers Project, had also been considering a fitness trail and water trail in the area. The tie-in to Pine Mountain Trail made the system seem more attractive, particularly since the Pine Mountain Trail will be part of a system of trails stretching from Florida to the Finger Lakes of New York.

“This is just another piece of the puzzle in making Letcher County a tourist-friendly community. Thirteen thousand people a year hike the Appalachian Trail and about 500 a year hike the whole 2,000 miles. Someday the trail system that Pine Mountain is part of may rival that,” Adams said. “If we can get those people to stop here and buy something, it benefits everyone.”

Preliminary ideas call for the trail to tie into the Downtown Whitesburg Historic District tour being developed by Charles Hall, a history teacher at Letcher County Central High School. The Letcher County Tourism building, which sits on the historic district tour, would serve as a trail head and information center.

The Kentucky Natural Lands Trust has promised assistance with the trail, and Shad Baker of the Pine Mountain Trail Conference said it fits in well with that group’s long-term plan for side trails to bring visitors into communities along the trail.

Anyone who is interested in the trail system and would like be included in the planning should attend the meeting March 25.

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