Whitesburg KY

Representative pledges to make horse trail work

94th District State Representative Leslie Combs pledged this week to do all she can to make the Pioneer Horse Trail in Letcher County a reality. Speaking at the monthly meeting of a group working on the trail project, Combs said she believes the project is moving forward and promised to work to expedite grants to develop the trail.

She also said the group needs to be ready to present a detailed plan to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and be ready to answer that agency’s questions. Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said he had spoken with Fish and Wildlife representatives and told them Letcher County is ready to do whatever is necessary to make the trail happen.

“We will have to jump through a lot more hoops, but Leslie is with us,” Ward said at Monday night’s meeting. “The county can answer all their questions. I spoke to Doug Hensley (who represents Letcher and 12 other counties on the Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission) and I told him specifically I would do whatever we need to get it done. He asked me if I really took it so seriously and I told him that I want that trail.”

Ward said he told Fish and Wildlife a paved road is already running through the Wildlife Management Area and he doubts a horse trail would have a significant environmental impact on the area – certainly not one to rival the paving of the Little Shepherd Trail. He also said the trail will run below the scenic cliffs on Pine Mountain and have no impact on them whatsoever.

Mike Caudill, chief executive officer of Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation in Whitesburg, represents the League of Kentucky Sportsmen on the Governor’s Commission for Recreation Trails Authority. Caudill said the Trails Authority met at Hindman last month but did not have a quorum, which is necessary to conduct official business. Caudill said the group that was present agreed to draft a letter for the next meeting in support of allowing access to the Wildlife Management Area for the Pioneer Horse Trail.

“They will write the letter to Fish and Wildlife and ask them to help make the trail happen,” said Caudill. “The next meeting is in two weeks and the letter will be issued then.”

Caudill said he also had spoken with representatives of the governor’s office and with Charlie Martin, chair of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission, and asked them to help move the project forward. He said he told Martin the riders who will use the trail are also fishermen and hunters who have as much right to use the WMA as anyone, but want to use it in a different manner. He said trail riders should bring their hunting and fishing licenses to any meetings where Fish and Wildlife representatives are present to show them that they also buy the licenses which support the department.

“Just because you are horseback riders doesn’t mean you don’t hunt and fish too,” said Caudill.

Representative Combs said she likes the positive momentum and senses the county is solidly behind the project. She said any residents who believe the trail would have a negative impact should attend the meetings so they can work with the committee to address their concerns.

“A lot of people in the area seem excited by this,” said Combs. “The expenses are reasonable and a lot of the people who are interested will volunteer to work on the trail. We see this as a positive, something good for the area. There are concerns about anything you try to do, but you all are trying to do something good. If we have any naysayers, we need them here too. This has the potential to become something big.”

Judge Ward said the county will provide a survey of the trail as soon as a final route is settled. Ward said the survey would describe the exact measurements of the trail and will be crafted to make certain erosion is not a problem and any drainage issues will be dealt with in a manner to prevent them from detracting from the natural beauty of the trail.

“If we have to put a culvert in, we will use rocks and make a natural drain,” said Ward. “They won’t even know a culvert is there. It will be natural. A horse goes pretty far in going back to nature.”

“We have something unique,” added Pioneer Trail committee chair Jimmy McIntosh. “And you get 20 miles to a feed.”

In other business, McIntosh presented seven drawings from Letcher County Central High School art students and asked committee members to choose one to serve as the trail logo for T-shirts and other representations.

McIntosh said he asked the school’s art class to draw possible logos and brought the seven best ones to the meeting. The committee planned to give $50 to the artists of the top logos, but Ward suggested they raise a little more money and present an equal amount to each of the seven finalists. The winning picture and the names of the winner and finalists will appear in next week’s Mountain Eagle.

The next meeting of the Pioneer Horse Trail committee is scheduled for the second Monday in June (June 11) at 6:30 p.m. at the Letcher County Tourism Commission headquarters in Whitesburg.

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