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Eastern Kentucky Comprehensive Adventure Tourism Plan

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In an effort to assist in the development of local civic capacity to create economic activity, the Kentucky Department of Tourism, through a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) commissioned the development of a Comprehensive Adventure Tourism Plan for Eastern Kentucky.

The purpose of the plan is to evaluate distressed counties in eastern Kentucky in order to develop local civic capacity to plan for and maximize the regional impact of the emerging adventure tourism industry.

The outcome of the plan is to identify and document the existing resources, assets and opportunities available for adventure activities and establish a strategy for developing a more substantial adventure tourism market. In addition, the planning process will help to develop organizational resources to support ongoing coordination and implementation to expand on the opportunities. Finally, this plan will quantify the physical, economic, financial and liability issues to support effective decision-making for future investment and priority action plan development.

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Eastern Kentucky Comprehensive Adventure Tourism Plan

  1. 1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Throughout this project, the PROS Team required information, analysis and insight from others in order to prepare a report that best reflects the character, interests and vision of eastern Kentucky. We would like to express our gratitude and acknowledge the following organizations for their direct assistance or previous work that contributed to this project: Kentucky’s Governors Office for Local Development Big Sandy Area Development District Kentucky River Area Development District Cumberland Valley Area Development District Bluegrass Area Development District Gateway Area Development District FIVCO Area Development District Southeastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association International Mountain Biking Association WMTH, Inc. / Summit Engineering / ERA Outdoor Industry Foundation Kentucky Mountain Biking Association Mountain Trail Development Coalition Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development Appalachian Regional Commission Kentucky State Park System Marshall University Additionally, we would like to acknowledge and thank the following individuals for providing information, insight and interviews: Pike County and City of Pikeville Phyllis Hunt John Gatling Debbie Clevinger Minta Chaney Magistrate Christian Harris Knott County Theresa Huff Debbie Moore Geraldine Champion Judge Randy Thompson Harlan - Bell Counties Judge Joe Grieshop Andy Meadors Kim Collier Judy Barton Perry – Breathitt Counties Angela Duff Fitz Steele Paul Hall Tim Spencer Paul Feltner Powell County Judge Darren Farmer Serena Bowen Matt Tackett Joe Bowen Kick-off Focus Group Barry Davis - Floyd County Deputy Judge Exec. Christi Kirk - Martin County MCEDA Sherry McDavid - FIVCO ADD Tim Schwendemenn - Cumberland Valley ADD Jason Hawkins - Cumberland Valley ADD Andy Meadors - Cumberland Valley ADD Terry Trimble - Big Sandy ADD Sandy Runyon - Big Sandy ADD Denise Thomas - Big Sandy ADD Clark Allison – Nat. Resource Conservation Service Commissioner Randall Fiveash - Dept. of Tourism Justin Maxson - MACED Van Back - SEKTDA Patty White - Governor's EKY Field Rep Gail Wright - Gateway ADD Johnda Barker – Estrn. Hghlnds. North Trsm. Region Risa Shimoda Shad Baker - Pine Mountain Trail Betty Cole - Daniel Boone Country Tourism Region Gene McDaniel - KYMBA Michael Dulin - KYMBA
  2. 2. 2 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY INTRODUCTION Eastern Kentucky has a story that emerges directly from the heart of American tenacity, romance and adventure. It is a region rich in history from well-known Appalachian lore, has inspired renowned folk art and music, features spectacular natural resources and wilderness, and is home to a hearty people clearly defined by their surroundings and past. Despite the obvious beauty and richness of the region, the land and people of eastern Kentucky have undergone tremendous hardship through the decades from both the relative remoteness of the area and the continual rise and fall of an economy that depends largely on consumptive industries. Eastern Kentucky is characterized by severe terrain and limited development space that has constricted economic diversification associated with the rise of professional employment fields beyond the more traditional industrial and social support economies. Companies and conglomerates that mine, log, pump, and otherwise extract valuable fuels from the land to support the backbone of American enterprise have dominated the economic landscape in eastern Kentucky far as long as 90 years. In an effort to assist in the development of local civic capacity to create economic activity, the Kentucky Department of Tourism, through a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) commissioned the development of a Comprehensive Adventure Tourism Plan for Eastern Kentucky. The purpose of the plan is to evaluate distressed counties in eastern Kentucky in order to develop local civic capacity to plan for and maximize the regional impact of the emerging adventure tourism industry. The outcome of the plan is to identify and document the existing resources, assets and opportunities available for adventure activities and establish a strategy for developing a more susbstantial adventure tourism market. In addition, the planning process will help to develop organizational resources to support ongoing coordination and implementation to expand on the opportunities. Finally, this plan will quantify the physical, economic, financial and liability issues to support effective decision-making for future investment and priority action plan development. The Kentucky Department of Tourism retained PROS Consulting, LLC to prepare the Comprehensive Adventure Tourism Plan for Eastern Kentucky (Plan). PROS Consulting (PROS Team) applied its extensive experience in recreation, sports and tourism to deliver a plan that establishes a vision for the adventure tourism, melding together the strengths of the tangible and intangible assets to create a strong foundation for the future. This plan is built upon the collective vision and capacity of leadership throughout the designated region and state officials. It does not suggest the departure from the traditional mainstays of the regional economy, but provides a recommended course of action to achieve the goals of both the region and the state in responsible tourism development. The plan that follows outlines the steps for a sustainable investment in the economic revitalization of eastern Kentucky through adventure tourism. The following report presents the analysis process, summary of findings and recommendations.
  3. 3. 3 SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS A concerted and strategic effort to build a successful adventure tourism destination attracts both public and private investment to enhance and develop community infrastructure including roads, utilities, and technology. Reliable tourism enterprise produces diversified employment opportunities for residents and newcomers that are not always the highest paying, but are service oriented and therefore appeal to a broader segment of the population including young professionals, people with disabilities and working elders. The first priority of this plan involved a thorough examination of the region’s strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats. This exercise included analyses of environmental, socio-economic and political, community infrastructure and market appeal. OVERALL PERCEPTIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES • Kentucky State Parks and State Resort Parks are tremendous attractions and are well maintained. • Developing venues for trail sports are a big priority for the region, including hiking, mountain biking, ATV and equestrian trails. • Eastern Kentucky has a rich history and authentic culture that is a source of pride for residents and is well received by visitors. • Many popular adventure sports like rock climbing, mountain biking, and whitewater kayaking and rafting have renowned natural venues in Eastern Kentucky. • Eastern Kentucky’s tourism resources are seemingly unlimited and generally underutilized. • There is a great need for developing and improving infrastructure within Eastern Kentucky communities that will support increased visitation. • Tourism support services including quantity and quality of accommodations, restaurants and service providers will need to be developed as visitation demands to the area increase. • Coordinated marketing efforts could result in stronger and more sustained tourism in the region. REGIONAL CONSTRAINTS AND CHALLENGES • workforce readiness and reliability • a need for additional tourism service amenities (accommodations and dining predominantly) • historical territorialism among counties and jurisdictions for tourism markets • a lack of reliable capital to pursue long-term facility development • a need for updated regional base data from which to plan improved visitation • no sense of regional connectivity for the visitor • disjointed marketing and promotional campaigns • little or no sustainable funding mechanism to support regional tourism development • major trail venues are still in planning and development phases The region includes many counties which have leveraged their resources and opportunities to build and sustain the necessary infrastructure of roads and access, utilities, and technology. Additionally, state leadership over the years has consistently supported efforts to enhance and improve the infrastructure that promotes overall quality of life in the region.
  4. 4. 4 Eastern Kentucky has both existing and potential options for visiting tourists. The popular existing options include numerous historical and cultural attractions, events and festivals; limited golf courses of varying levels of upkeep and quality; numerous fishing and hunting opportunities with the proper permits; wildlife viewing; and a select list of recommended driving tours. Beyond the more tangible aspects of infrastructure, eastern Kentucky communities have also developed successful social support services that aggressively pursue community enhancement. These services include, but are not limited to tourism commissions, community action committees, and community parks and event centers. Addressing these challenges requires a clear vision and mission that guides the Commonwealth, Area Development Districts, regional tourism development organizations and trail authorities, local counties, and its residents in achieving its full potential. Following is a suggested guiding vision and mission of Eastern Kentucky Adventure Tourism that promotes the area as a great place to live, work and visit. VISION The vision is for eastern Kentucky to be recognized as one of the great destinations of the United States – with a celebration of Appalachian heritage and life; innovative and quality trail systems; world-class adventure recreation venues; authentic frontier culture and art amenities; a rich blend of retail, restaurants, accommodations and businesses supporting the tourism economy; and special event activities – all in a setting of rugged Appalachia that offers both active and passive recreation. MISSION The mission of eastern Kentucky is to create an adventure tourism environment with coordinated marketing, programming, communications, and well-maintained facilities that fosters synergy among its private operators, public agencies and governments, quasi-governmental and/or non-profit organizations, educational institutions and residents as a primary destination for adventure tourism enthusiasts. GOALS/OBJECTIVES The Eastern Kentucky Adventure Tourism Comprehensive Master Plan objectives include: • Create a year-round adventure destination and increased outdoor recreation activities in the region • Create a platform for success for participants and leaders of the adventure tourism initiative • Preserve, enliven, and interpret the historical and cultural aspects of the region • Complete the conceptual development of future and potential adventure recreation and tourism attractions and amenities in context with existing and envisioned success • Fulfill the requirements for a signature adventure tourism destination as set out by the Commonwealth • To maximize the value of the natural and cultural resources as economic and community assets while controlling the financial investment by public sources.
  5. 5. 5 SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS Following review of the insights provided by interviews and surveys with community leaders, the region that emerged as the recommended area of focus includes the following 18 counties as depicted in Figure 1: • Pike • Floyd • Magoffin • Morgan • Menifee • Powell • Estill • Breathitt • Knott • Letcher • Harlan • Wolfe • Martin • Bell • Johnson • Perry Figure 1 – Pilot study area recommendation• Bath • Rowan As indicated throughout this report, there are traditional adventure recreation and tourism activities and markets that eastern Kentucky is uniquely equipped to develop further. Therefore, the recommended core program markets include: • Paddle Sports • Rock Climbing and Rappelling • Trail Venues • Lake Sports • Wildlife viewing Tourism creates value in a community specifically surrounding areas of cultural, historic, or recreational significance. It has been repeatedly determined through statistical and qualitative analysis that private property values surrounding tourism and recreation amenities grows exponentially year after year in contrast to areas without proximity to these resources or enhancements. Specifically, resources supporting adventure tourism or activities that rely on natural settings produce not only tremendous community value, but also become a source of great local pride.
  6. 6. 6 Following this analysis PROS detailed a suggested positioning platform from which the region can build a concerted branding campaign. The foundation positioning suggested for adventure tourism in eastern Kentucky is: Adventure Terrain – Nature’s Playground “Adventure Terrain – Nature’s Playground” is suggested to be a potential branding campaign that is inclusive for visitors of all skills levels, backgrounds and interests. The examples below help to illustrate how this branding platform can communicate eastern Kentucky’s adventure messages: • The area’s adventurous terrain provides for world-class experiences in a wild and untamed landscape that appeal to enthusiasts in extreme trail sports, whitewater paddling and rock climbing. • There are plentiful opportunities for people seeking softer adventures such as hiking, milder trail and paddle sports, guided climbing and rappelling for beginners, wildlife viewing, and lake sports. • The legendary historical and cultural attributes of the region enrich the experiences of all visitors. • The multitude and diversity of adventure-based opportunities encourages visitors to plan extended stays that incorporate multiple adventure experiences throughout the region. • The multitude and diversity of adventure-based opportunities encourages repeat visits to participate in new experiences in a familiar setting. Standard icons and imagery can be used in conjunction with the creative design of the branding campaign to graphically illustrate the variety of activities available in the region for visitors of diverse interests and skill levels. The creative design themes should be uniformly used with all promotional literature, information and directional signage, and other materials utilized to interface with current and potential visitors to the area. Within the broad categories of activity, PROS identified sub-classifications and has determined primary and secondary markets, as appropriate, for each. The recommended market segmentation follows several important themes established throughout this report and outlined below: • It will be essential to draw participants and customers from the local community (year-round and seasonal residents), the known tourism base, and those who reside within an eight (8) hour drive of the region • It will be important to concentrate on self-guided, diversified, extended-stay visitation patterns from targeted market segments • Partnerships and collaborations within the region among private and public operators will motivate visitation of multiple events and facilities, and local business leadership should be encouraged to continue alliances that promote both efficiencies and group sales • Harmonious and productive relationships with Discover Today’s ATVs, the communications service bureau of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA), and International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) is essential to maintaining appropriate safety and maintenance standards for multi-use trails and usage regulations
  7. 7. 7 • To facilitate and consolidate the marketing efforts stated within, it is critical to employ a first-rate marketing firm or staff to properly hone and consistently deliver the intended messages about eastern Kentucky adventure tourism to the designated market segments • It is essential to maintain base-line data and reference materials on the current trends and expenditures within the designated counties from out-of-county visitors The potential growth in economic activity in the region due to a successful regional tourism initiative is strong. This is supported through the region’s ability to attract and expose new participants to these sports that might have some reluctance to experience the activities, by providing a diverse environment that appeal to a broader segment of both the current and prospective markets. For the pursuit of adventure recreation and tourism visitors both a local and target market exists. • The local market is classified as those that are full-time and seasonal residents of the 18-county pilot study area, segmented by age, and near-local non-residents who are within a one (1) hour drive-time • The target market is made up of those that reside in the known annual visitor base that is accessible through information gathered by the county tourism commissions and area development districts in the region, and those within a specified market area based on published adventure travel and vacation trends. ACTION PLAN • ORGANIZE EXPECTATIONS, ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES • DEVELOP REGIONAL GOALS FOR SHORT, MID, LONG TERM • MAINTAIN REGIONAL BASE DATA FOR TOURISM IMPACT • CREATE A UNIFIED BRAND AND MARKETING STRATEGY POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS • LAND OWNER LIABILITY RELIEF (STATUTE 411.190) • TAX INCENTIVES FOR LAND USAGE • INCENTIVES AND SUPPORT FOR NEW BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT • TRANSIENT ROOM TAX TO SUPPORT INITIATIVE • STATEWIDE ATV PERMITTING LOCAL RESIDENT DEVELOPMENT • CUSTOMER SERVICE TRAINING • REIMBURSEMENT GRANTS FOR ADULT EDUCATION • COMMUNITY FORUMS FACILITIES • SKYWARD TRAIL SYSTEM • SIGNAGE, GPS MAPPING AND INFORMATION CENTERS
  8. 8. 8 SUMMARY OF MARKET ANALYSIS Projecting a participation base for the eastern Kentucky adventure tourism is not an exact science. Analyzing recent vacation travel trends and the available markets located within a reasonable drive- time, a foundation for participation was formulated. Based on American vacation trends – traveling by car is still the most popular transportation, small towns and rural areas rank second in most visited areas, and adventure travel vacations are on the rise – an eight (8) hour drive-time market (Figure 2 on the following page) for the eastern Kentucky adventure tourism study area was defined and analyzed. Major metropolitan statistical areas located within the eight-hour drive-time market were also analyzed for participatory data in selected adventure tourism or extreme sports activities. MSAs were targeted for their dense populations and relative concise marketing boundaries as opposed to the entire eight- hour drive-time. Select MSAs analyzed within the drive time market established include: • Atlanta • Cincinnati/Hamilton • Chicago/Gary/Lake County • Cleveland/Akron • Columbus • Detroit/Ann Arbor/Flint • Indianapolis • Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Newport News • Milwaukee/Racine • St. Louis • Washington/Baltimore It is assumed that as the adventure tourism industry in eastern Kentucky matures, the percentage of new participants to the area will gradually decline; however, it is not assumed that new participants will ever account for less than fifteen to twenty percent of total visitation. Applying the visitation factors to the target market yields an estimated 132,651 total annual party visitations to the region. Using a regional multiplier (RIMS II) from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, each spending profile was modeled. Figure 2 - Drive time analysis Estimated total annual economic impact (output) of the adventure tourism market has the potential to range from $54.0 million to $99.0 million impact to the region. The potential increase in the work force is 824 to 1,505 full time equivalent laborers.
  9. 9. 9 SITUATIONAL ASSESSMENT The first priority of this plan involved a thorough examination of the region’s strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats. This exercise was completed using the following meta-categories to guide the analyses: • Environmental • Socio-economic and Political • Community Infrastructure • Market Appeal The following findings were gathered from general research of contemporary social issues of the region, deduced from informal interviews with local residents and tourism service industry employees, and from attendance at the Eastern Kentucky Leadership Conference conducted in Pikeville on April 26-27, 2007. STUDY AREA Eastern Kentucky as a whole has both tremendous opportunities, as well as constraints associated with any strategy of economic development. For purposes of this plan, eastern Kentucky is defined initially as the 33-county region encompassing the Kentucky’s Appalachians and Daniel Boone Country tourism districts (Figure 3) designated as the area of initial study within the scope of this project. The project scope required that the 33 original counties identified undergo preliminary study to determine a smaller, pilot region in which to focus the Plan. This determination involved a thorough review of many factors including stakeholder assessments, regional resource assessments, and availability of political capital that can be leveraged for the Plan’s success. Figure 3 –Preliminary area of study KENTUCKY’S APPALACHIANS COUNTIES (15) • Bath • Magoffin • Boyd • Martin • Carter • Menifee • Elliott • Montgomery • Floyd • Morgan • Greenup • Pike • Johnson • Rowan • Lawrence
  10. 10. 10 DANIEL BOONE COUNTRY COUNTIES (18) • Bell • Lee • Breathitt • Leslie • Clay • Letcher • Estill • Owsley • Harlan • Perry • Jackson • Powell • Knott • Rockcastle • Knox • Whitley • Laurel • Wolfe ARC “ECONOMICALLY DISTRESSED AREAS” The purpose of the Comprehensive Adventure Tourism Plan for Eastern Kentucky is to stimulate the existing economic health of the region and specifically to provide opportunities for sustainable economic development to areas within the region classified as “distressed areas” per the criteria of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through responsible adventure tourism. The area of focused delineated within this plan (Figure 4) includes the following counties classified as majority distressed, at-risk or transitional areas: • Bath At-Risk • Bell Distressed FIGURE 12 - ECONOMICALLY DISTRESSED COUNTIES Figure 4 – ARC distressed counties • Breathitt Distressed • Estill Distressed • Floyd Distressed • Harlan Distressed • Johnson Distressed • Knott Distressed • Letcher Distressed • Magoffin Distressed • Martin Distressed • Menifee Distressed • Morgan Distressed • Perry Distressed • Pike At-Risk • Powell Distressed • Rowan At-Risk • Wolfe Distressed
  11. 11. 11 ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT Environmentally, the region is embedded in the Appalachian highlands and is defined largely by extremely steep terrain crisscrossed by narrow canyons and blanketed with thick, mixed forests of hardwoods, conifers and dense undergrowth. The topography of the landscape has presented tremendous challenges to communities and private enterprise for development space for roads, utilities, industry and otherwise. ENVIRONMENTAL STRENGTHS The following environmental strengths of the region supporting the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • There are substantial quantities of wilderness and back country in eastern Kentucky. • The natural beauty and richness of wilderness areas in eastern Kentucky are renowned. • The region features rich and unique wildlife viewing opportunities. • Environmental clean-up from industrial impacts have had many localized success cases. • There are multiple natural features with notable adventure recreational appeal to visitors including motorized trail sports, mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, whitewater and paddling sports, horseback riding, and hot air ballooning. • The eastern Kentucky climate has distinguished seasons, but none are too extreme. • The geology and soils of the region are conducive to sustainable trail development with a responsible maintenance plan. • There are multiple lakes in the area which feature quality fishing, swimming and other lake sport opportunities. ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES The following environmental challenges of the region regarding the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Eastern Kentucky is characterized by severely steep topography. • Notable natural features attractive to ‘adventurists’ are sometimes very remote and have limited access. • The area’s geology and soils have limitations to provide multiple use trails without significant maintenance efforts. ENVIRONMENTAL OPPORTUNITIES The following environmental opportunities for the region aligned with the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Regional topography lends to adventure recreation venues that can become renowned for being suited for advanced enthusiasts, while current and planned venues also provide opportunities for beginners. • Adventure recreation and tourism development promotes environmental stewardship attitudes and efforts among both visitors and residents. • Tourism demands can promote balance in current state and federal environmental policies that allow for more managed interaction between people and the environment.
  12. 12. 12 • Adventure tourism success promotes more sustainable land management practices by private land owners. • The array of the area’s natural resources provides diverse opportunities for visitors, encouraging multiple visits and longer stays. ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS The following environmental threats to the region from the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Increased usage of trails, off-road byways and wilderness areas that are not properly managed can proliferate erosion, litter and other forms of undesirable impact. • Industry environmental impacts in the area, particularly among mining, logging, oil, and gas operations, require coordination and accountability to protect the quality and safety of the adventure recreation experience. • Unmanaged interaction between increased visitation and wildlife can diminish the quality of the natural habitat. • Traditional draw-down policies for area lakes popular with both residents and visitors inhibits the tourism appeal of the resource for 12-month recreational use. SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL ASSESSMENT Eastern Kentucky is largely defined by the culture of its residents and their rich history in living the traditional rural Appalachian lifestyle. This provides both rustic appeal to outsiders as well as present multiple socio-economic challenges that are viewed by many community leaders as serious obstacles to the economic advancement of the area. Communities within the area demonstrated progressive and strategic efforts in pursuing the appropriate political support and development that are necessary to allow for a thriving adventure tourism industry to emerge. This assessment involved multiple interviews of both appointed and elected officials who were willing to take controversial stands on issues at times in their communities for the benefit of building a brighter future for residents through adventure tourism development. SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL STRENGTHS The following socio-economic and political strengths of the region supporting the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Local residents are generally described as friendly and open, exhibiting a true interest in the promotion of their hometown and its assets. • Community leaders are committed to economic diversification. • Elected officials are open to policies that encourage and support adventure tourism growth and sustainability. • Community leaders are dedicated to pursuing support from the Commonwealth and federal governments to assist with tourism development. • A sizeable workforce is available in local communities to support labor demands of an adventure tourism economy.
  13. 13. 13 • Numerous governmental, quasi-governmental and civic organizations promote education and skill development within the local population for the purposes of stabilizing their future in the greater world community. • Multiple counties and towns have successful tourism agencies or commissions that promote the assets of the area to visitors. SOCIO ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL CHALLENGES The following socio-economic and political challenges of the region inhibiting the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Educational attainment in eastern Kentucky has been improving, but must remain a regional and state priority. • Eastern Kentucky communities struggle to keep their young people once educated, therefore losing opportunities for fresh leadership and expertise. • At times eastern Kentucky leaders perceive the needs of their communities come second to other areas in the Commonwealth that consistently produce more tourism revenue for the state. • There is ubiquitous frustration over the distribution and uses of coal severance funds from the Commonwealth. Numerous community leaders expressed concern that coal severance funds are generated from eastern Kentucky counties and often spent in other areas of the Commonwealth, instead of tending to the needs of their communities from which the funds are derived. • Assessable tax bases are universally low compared to other areas of the Commonwealth, resulting in limited capacity for locally-derived public investments. • Tourism, whereas supported by most community leaders, is not always accepted by local residents as a viable economic enterprise. • Opportunities for small business development are generally speculative and require more investment than people are sometimes willing to risk in order to be financially successful in the long-term. SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL OPPORTUNITIES The following socio-economic and political opportunities that exist within the region from the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • The traditional Appalachian culture of eastern Kentucky creates appeal and easily resonates with many outside visitors. • Numerous community colleges and technical schools in the region are dedicated to community development and can provide training and skill clinics for a local workforce. • Adventure tourism promotes activities that are among the more popular outdoor recreation activities with local populations, specifically hunting, fishing and ATV trails. • Regulated and managed ATV trail systems can potentially improve the injury and fatality rates among locals that are currently the result of non-compliance with industry recommended safety procedures. • The “economically distressed” status of many eastern Kentucky counties enables the region to become eligible for public funding and grants.
  14. 14. 14 • Sustainable adventure tourism development increases the assessable tax base within eastern Kentucky counties over time, thereby providing future capital for either direct funding or investment collateral. • The undeveloped status of many eastern Kentucky communities provides opportunities for select private investment success. • The popularity of ATV’s by both residents and visitors, and current lack of vehicle permitting regulations creates opportunities for public revenue generation supporting trail maintenance and management. • Well-planned adventure tourism developments can assist to provide an enhanced opportunity to effectively utilize coal severance funds to be reinvested in the communities of eastern Kentucky. • The popularity and quality of eastern Kentucky’s adventure tourism attractions can elevate the region’s status among the greater Commonwealth and therefore boost regional morale on the whole. • Adventure tourism as a reliable industry has tremendous appeal to younger professionals and can assist the region’s ability to keep its young people. • Employment within adventure tourism is predominantly service-oriented and provides numerous jobs that can appeal to young people, people with disabilities, people without high school or advanced degrees, and working elders. • Jobs in adventure tourism can be promoted as “new” and “edgy” and are largely a departure from traditional employment opportunities in local communities, therefore potentially encouraging an attitude-shift among residents entrenched in a welfare-dependent lifestyle. • Small business assistance programs through grants and low-interest loans are present and active in the region. • Responsible adventure recreation activities promote a healthy lifestyle of diet, exercise, and quality time in the outdoors for both residents and visitors. • A sustainable adventure tourism industry in eastern Kentucky can diversify the local economies, creating strength from a lessened dependence on traditional economic mainstays. • A successful, regional adventure tourism initiative demands multi-jurisdictional cooperation among governmental, quasi-governmental and civic organizations. SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL THREATS The following socio-economic and political threats within the region can potentially slow the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • The immediacy of social issues including healthcare, education, and community infrastructure can overshadow the importance of investing in economic diversification and therefore limit the available local funds to support adventure tourism development. • An untrained workforce can derail an adventure tourism industry before it reaches its full potential. For example, on numerous visits to the area PROS team members performed eight (8) “mystery shopper” exercises at randomly selected hotels, gas stations and local businesses throughout the region. When asked, “What is there to do around here?” the answer was “nothing” or “not much” without any further explanation on four out of eight responses. • The need for project sustainability could hinder the ability to apply for state and federal funding.
  15. 15. 15 • Due to the legislative process, policy development realities make reliable, sustained support unpredictable. • Unprotected private land-owner liability can prevent the conjunctive use of private and public land for integrated trail systems. • The delay for small, start-up businesses to experience reasonable financial return on their initial investment can outpace the resources available to them. • Local desire to experience visible, short-term financial return from adventure tourism can endanger the required local commitment needed to build a reliable tourism industry over time. • Poor cooperation among governmental, quasi-governmental and civic organizations can detract from the goals of a regional adventure tourism effort. • Lack of a formalized funding mechanism to support on-going regional adventure tourism promotion can jeopardize opportunities and decrease likelihood of the initiative’s success. COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE ASSESSMENT The community infrastructure in eastern Kentucky is generally sufficient to support the development and maintenance of a viable adventure tourism industry. The region includes many counties who have appropriately leveraged their resources and opportunities to build and sustain the necessary infrastructure of roads and access, utilities, and technology. Additionally, state leadership over the years has consistently supported efforts to enhance and improve the infrastructure that promotes overall quality of life in the region. Beyond the more tangible aspects of infrastructure typically referred to, eastern Kentucky communities have also developed successful social support services that aggressively pursue community enhancement. These services include, but are not limited to tourism commissions, community action committees, and community parks and event centers. COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE STRENGTHS The following community infrastructure strengths of the region supporting the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Roads and highways providing access to and between communities are very well developed and maintained. • The area includes multiple regional airports that currently support private aircraft, and could eventually support small commuter services on a limited basis. • Communications and technology infrastructure is updated in all large towns, and present in many smaller communities throughout the region. • Social support services in most counties are effective in their pursuit of improving quality of life for the local residents. • All counties have either a dedicated tourism commission within its bounds, or a regional organization that currently promotes the assets of the area to visitors. • Water and waste water utilities in larger towns seem generally reliable and becoming more updated. • The area boasts numerous developed and well-maintained parks and recreation areas.
  16. 16. 16 COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE CHALLENGES The following community infrastructure challenges of the region inhibiting the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Water and waste water utilities are currently not reliable or updated in some smaller towns and counties seeking adventure tourism development. Great strides have been made in select areas. • Many areas attractive for adventure tourism activities are remote and present access and security challenges (ie. trail and trailhead patrolling, etc) • There are current concerns over the ability to adequately patrol and provide enforcement of usage policies on backcountry trails. • Backcountry trail signage and information centers are not currently adequate to support adventure tourism with a reputation of high quality. • Integrated trail systems within and between counties are in varying stages of development. • Accessibility to natural features and areas attractive for more advanced-skill adventure recreation and tourism can be problematic due to remoteness, limited roads, and/or private land ownership. COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE OPPORTUNITIES The following community infrastructure opportunities that exist within the region from the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Counties within the designated pilot study area support the development of integrated, multi-use trail systems. • A responsible adventure tourism industry will encourage and demand the continued upgrading of regional roads, utilities and technology. • Increased demand will provide more stable private investment opportunities to enhance the availability and quality of hospitality services in the region specifically including accommodations and restaurants. • Visitor demands provide greater support for further development of the region’s park and recreational amenities. • Properly developed and “signed” backcountry trails provide a safer venue for both residents and visitors. • ATV permitting and enforcement can assist to fund the provision of necessary security and patrolling along trails and at trailheads. COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE THREATS The following community infrastructure threats within the region can potentially slow the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Unreliable water and waste water utilities can seriously detract from the success of a tourism industry. • Limited accommodations and eateries in the short term can reduce the quality of the visitor experience. • Increased patrolling of trails and trailheads can greatly burden either police or volunteer organizations.
  17. 17. 17 MARKET APPEAL ASSESSMENT The Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky was the site of one of the most infamous American legends – the Hatfield-McCoy feud. This region features a wealth of traditional Appalachian lore that has both a colorful and romantic edge, and has inspired folk music and art with great reputation. Conversely, the region has also suffered from a more recent reputation in the last 30 years as an area that has suffered tremendous environmental pollution and impact from mining, logging and petrochemical extraction. In even more recent times the region has developed a reputation as having pockets of great poverty and socio-economic distress. To adventure enthusiasts, however, eastern Kentucky is widely embraced as an undiscovered gem. The region’s terrain and rich, natural beauty has attracted mountain bikers, ATV riders, rock climbers and whitewater enthusiasts for the last several decades to some areas within the region that can easily be labeled world-class. MARKET APPEAL STRENGTHS The following market appeal strengths of the region supporting the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Eastern Kentucky’s history and culture includes events and accomplishments that are renowned throughout the United States. • The Hatfield-McCoy feud has achieved legendary status in American history, evoking imagery of a wild and untamed landscape. • The Red River Gorge is widely accepted as one of the top five greatest all-around rock climbing areas in the country, and among the top ten worldwide. • Cave Run Lake is surrounded by terrain that mountain bikers around the state and beyond acclaim as potentially rivaling the more famous venues in Moab and the American West in beauty, technical difficulty, and recreational experience. • The Russell Fork River bordering Virginia features raging Class V whitewater, particularly through the Russell Fork Gorge, that due to only four releases annually is revered as a renowned and rare species of incredible whitewater. • Kentucky ATV trails have become increasingly popular to adventure tourists in the last eight to ten years and feature some of the most robust, challenging, and rewarding ATV experiences east of the Mississippi River. • The region’s rugged terrain and seemingly untouched wilderness has great potential appeal to adventurists who are seeking a more exclusive experience.
  18. 18. 18 MARKET APPEAL CHALLENGES The following market appeal challenges of the region inhibiting the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Surrounding regions in West Virginia feature similar recreational and adventure tourism opportunities that are very well marketed, and therefore can present respectable competition for the target market segments. • Eastern Kentucky can be perceived as extremely rural with little infrastructure. • The region’s recent reputation of being economically distressed can often discourage a potential visitor. • Industry must be enticed to participate in the implementation of this regional plan and its requirements because of their status as large private landowners in the area. • To the new visitors with whom the area’s more famous natural features attractive to adventure tourism may not resonate, Kentucky can represent a lot of unknowns. • Information regarding services, accommodations and attractions throughout the entire region is not always readily available via the internet. MARKET APPEAL OPPORTUNITIES The following market appeal opportunities that exist within the region from the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Positioning eastern Kentucky adventure tourism opportunities to be complimentary to similar opportunities in West Virginia and other neighboring states will bring greater exposure to the whole region. • Eastern Kentucky features extreme and undiscovered adventure tourism resources. • The region includes adventure recreation and tourism experiences that range in difficulty and can appeal to a broad segment of users, including those with little or no previous experience to those with advanced skills. • The region is relatively remote, but surrounded by approximately 20 million people within a six- hour drive. • The quality of existing adventure recreation and tourism venues is outstanding and has a great national reputation to build upon. • Kentucky currently has other notable international tourism successes (ie. Kentucky Derby) to bring notoriety and exposure to the opportunities in the region.
  19. 19. 19 MARKET APPEAL THREATS The following market appeal threats within the region can potentially slow the development and maintenance of a quality adventure tourism industry were identified: • Uncooperative marketing efforts supporting a regional tourism initiative cannot effectively deliver the area’s message to the intended targets. • Poor or limited market strategies can result in sizeable promotional investments with little return. • Packaging information and messages in ways that does not appeal or resonate with the visitor and known visitor preferences can severely inhibit the process of converting interested visitors into confirmed visitors. • Limited and incomplete information available on the internet about the area, prominent tourism services, accommodations, and alternatives can discourage visitors by presenting a sense of being underdeveloped and having poor service quality. • Inconsistent training and customer service values in hotels, restaurants, and other points of interaction with visitors can increase the difficulty of attracting and keeping a sufficient visitor base. • Poor signage, visitor information, and no sense of arrival can detract from the experiential impressions made on the visitor.
  20. 20. 20 COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS In order to more accurately position the recommendations within this adventure tourism plan, PROS conducted a detailed comparative analysis on areas within the United States that had similar or comparable characteristics to eastern Kentucky. This exercise not only strengthens the evidence that adventure tourism is a viable tool for economic development, but also reveals many proven ‘best practices’ that have been utilized in other regions of the country to create a more robust and successful adventure tourism profile. The specific areas reviewed include: • Garrett County, Maryland • Garrett County was selected because of its similarities with eastern Kentucky’s terrain, its location as a part of Appalachia, and its successful history of leveraging adventure tourism to create sustainable and substantial economic development in what was once the most impoverished county in the state. • • The Ozarks in Arkansas • The Ozarks served as an excellent comparative analysis in this study because the region features similar landscape qualities, recreational and tourism appeal, its demographic similarities to the study area, and also has successfully leveraged adventure tourism for notable rural economic development. • • The Berkshires region in western Massachusetts • The Berkshires was analyzed as a relevant comparison to eastern Kentucky because of it as a rural destination, and its great success in regional branding involving multiple counties. GARRETT COUNTY, MARYLAND Garrett County is the westernmost county in the State of Maryland and encompasses 657 square miles within the Appalachian Mountains. The estimated population of the county in 2005 according to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development was 30,150, with the percentage age distribution in the following order from greatest to least: ages 20-44 (30.5%), ages 45-64 (27.4%), ages 5-19 (20.6%), ages 65 and over (16.1%), and finally ages five and under (5.1%). The county boasts the highest elevation in Maryland, 3,360 feet, and the largest inland body of water in the state, Deep Creek Lake, both of which are well-leveraged for purposes of adventure recreation and tourism. Garrett County hosted the 1972 and 1992 Olympic Whitewater Trials, and the 1989 World Canoe and Kayak Championships on the Savage River. The renowned Youghiogheny River featuring class V whitewater has long been a draw for whitewater adventure enthusiasts. Deep Creek Lake draws several hundred thousand visitors every year to the county according to the Deep Creek Chamber of Commerce, and is surrounded by numerous rental homes and chalets, hotels and motels, condominiums, restaurants and cafes, specialty retail stores, marinas and parks. The County benefits from having 90,000 acres of public lands within its bounds that are open and managed
  21. 21. 21 for recreational purposes. Garrett County is also home to the Wisp Resort, Maryland’s only ski area, and the new Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI), the nation’s newest and most unique whitewater park. Economically, the County has previously been the most impoverished county in the State according to local and state officials. In 1991, the unemployment rate in Garrett County was consistently 10.9% and average annual household income was $28,040. Today the economic climate in Garrett County is very different, largely from development that has centralized around the industries supported by recreation and tourism derived from the area’s abundant natural resources. In 2006, Garrett County was ranked by the State of Maryland as having the least affordable housing, when average home values are compared to average household income. The assessable tax base of the county has increased by approximately $1,000,000,000 (billion) over the last ten years as a result of real estate values around Deep Creek Lake skyrocketing. Garrett County unemployment rates have dropped to 4.8%, a rate consistently lower than both the State and National averages. Household income has steadily been on the rise and now is estimated to be $45,548. A Community Action Committee is aggressively active in the county creating affordable housing opportunities and providing numerous community services that help to stabilize the large income disparities that have developed among the county’s residents from the influx of a substantial second-home and vacation home market. Adventure Sports Center International – ASCI Showdown Climbing Competition Multiple economic analysts have probed the Garrett County situation and outlook for a potential ‘boom - bust’ scenario that could result for drastic increases in property values over a short period of time and all concluded with good news. Due to the County’s unique proximity to areas of great wealth and disposable income in surrounding Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia in particular, the controlled growth the County is managing now for new home and commercial development promises to have a sustainable future. The critical factor for driving the property values in Garrett County to levels that economically “pulled” the area into a completely different financial climate was development around and close to premier adventure recreation attractions and amenities. The developments located around Deep Creek Lake, the Wisp Ski Resort, and the Adventure Sports Center International are consistently among the highest priced properties in the county.
  22. 22. 22 Best Practices • Garrett County Commissioners have invested substantial county funds in recreation and tourism developments, despite inconsistent public support in the beginning. Between 2003 and 2007, an approximate total of $23 million of county funds have been invested in recreation and tourism projects for purposes of economic development. • Garrett County consistently utilized their state legislators to attract and maintain significant state and federal investment in capital development for recreation and tourism development to match county contributions. Between 2003 and 2007, an approximate total of $29 million of state and federal funds have been invested in recreation and tourism projects in Garrett County for purposes of economic development. • Garrett County administrators have worked to encourage and provide incentives for responsible development in designated zones around the county. This includes sizeable high-end residential areas, commercial zones around the county and the lake, and new industrial parks. • Garrett County administrators have coordinated efforts with state and federal agencies that manage public lands within the county to keep these resources accessible and managed responsibly for public recreation. • Garrett County Community Action and Garrett County Economic Development Corporation have united with county government to improve roads and access, utilities, available technology in the county, services for the disabled and aging, and affordable housing. These quality of life enhancements have proven critical for attracting new businesses and employers. OZARKS REGION, ARKANSAS The area commonly called “The Ozarks” covers much of the southern half of Missouri, extensive portions of northwest and north central Arkansas, and extreme southeast Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. Of this, six counties, Baxter, Carroll, Boone, and Marion in Arkansas and Stone and Taney in Missouri cover 3,554 square miles to form the basis of the North Central Ozark Region (NCOR) along the Arkansas-Missouri border. There are four primary physiographic sections: two plateaus (Springfield and Salem) and two mountain regions (Saint Francois and the Boston.) The Ozark region has a distinct culture similar to Appalachia and the Upland South. Ozark families tend to have lived in the area since the 19th century. Growth in the Branson area is changing this trend however. The estimated 2006 population in the 6-county region is 197,507 with the percentage age distribution in the following order from greatest to least: ages 45 – 64 (28.9 %), ages 20 – 44 (28.6 %), 65 and over (20.0%), ages 5 – 19 (16.9%) and under age 5 (5.7%). Population growth varies widely among the age brackets. From 2000 to 2006, it ranged from -3.2% to 17.5% with an overall growth rate for the 6 county area of 8.4%. From 2006 to 2011, growth is projected to range from -2.6 % to 12.1% with an average rate of 5.6%. In both time frames, growth occurred at a double digit pace in the over 45 age brackets, supporting the area’s reputation as a retirement mecca. Median Household
  23. 23. 23 Income in 2006 was $36,276 and is expected to increase by 17.6% by 2011. The economy is driven by tourism, centered on abundant natural and manmade features. In the 1950s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of what would become a 445-mile-long- waterway with 18 locks and dams. Construction spanned more than a quarter of a century at a cost of $1.3 billion. This navigation system resulted in a multitude of lakes across 4 states including Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfolk. Other significant features in the area or nearby include: Arkansas’ highest mountains, the Boston Mountains; and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the first U.S. National Park based on a river system. Tourism is the growth industry of the Ozarks as evidenced by nearby Branson, in the heart of the Ozark Mountains in southwest Missouri. Similar to the impact that the world- renowned Kentucky destination of Louisville provides to the Commonwealth, Branson provides an international destination within a few hundred miles of the Arkansas Ozarks that has become a popular gateway for the area. The economic impact of the City of Branson for the entire region cannot be overstated, as it’s prominence increased dramatically after the CBS program “60 Minutes” dubbed the area the “Country Music Mecca”. Branson had 7.2 million visitors in 2006, pumping $1.6 billion in to the local economy. Situated within a day’s drive of 50% of the U.S. population, Branson and the Tri-Lakes (Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals) area has been deemed a “U.S Destination with the Most to Offer Groups”, “Best Value”, and “Top 10 Worldwide Holiday Destination” among other accolades by various travel groups. Visitor profiles show that 65% come from more than 301+ miles away. Best Practices • To fuel new business, the State of Arkansas provides funding sources for start-ups and expansion. Arkansas offers an income tax credit as an incentive for creating new jobs. The credit is based on payroll. Counties are divided into four tiers, based on poverty rate, unemployment, per capita income and population growth with higher incentives given to companies expanding into lower tier areas. Counties in the Ozarks region cover all four tiers. • Arkansas incentives also include Amendment 82 to fund Super Projects (500 new jobs and $500 million investment.) The Amendment allows the State to issue bonds to fund a prospects’ infrastructure needs based on a cost-benefit analysis. • To further aid economic development, the State of Arkansas established Development regions. North Central Arkansas Regional Economic Development comprises a district that encompasses this 6-county area plus Howell, Ozark and Tandy in Missouri. This 75- mile circle form a trade area as well as the service, recreational and education region centered on Mountain Home, Arkansas in Baxter County.
  24. 24. 24 • Target Missouri 3 - TM3 is a public policy developed to assist economic development officials in targeting driver industries. TM3 provides a definition of which industries are drivers of a region’s economy, so that economic development policies and resources can be directed to the most viable parts of the economy. Various Missouri public departments and the private sector developed an economic development finance guide to provide technical assistance to Missouri communities and the regional-based development partners. The Guide serves as a "how to" manual in accessing and implementing existing economic development initiatives and services. BERKSHIRES, MASSACHUSETTS The Berkshires is a region that encompasses four of the westernmost counties of Massachusetts: Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire. Known for its beautiful terrain and natural playground, the region has grown tremendously from a viable tourism industry that supports year-round visitation. Largely rural compared to the more eastern counties in the state, the Berkshires have benefited from smart tourism development as a part of a larger economic development effort. The Berkshires region caters beautifully to a visitor’s desire to escape, seek romance or embark on outdoor adventures. The area features numerous amenities and attractions that appeal diverse tourism interests and desired activities. Currently twenty-eight state parks, forests, and resorts are in operation as well as twenty-nine private parks exist within the region. Geographically these parks are scattered evenly throughout the area and provide a great foundation to region’s tourism appeal by providing venues for hiking, biking, horseback riding, sightseeing, snowshoeing, paddling, tennis, and golf. As a region known for its natural beauty, the Berkshires deliver other aesthetic attractions in the form of art galleries, centers, and museums. These venues draw the sightseeing crowd to the region in order to experience a combination of manmade art and pristine natural landscape. Antique shows and sales draw a similar crowd; some come to window shop, while others come ready to spend in order to improve their own antique collections. Aside from art, antiques, and retail shops, the region also boasts plenty of family friendly activities. Four ski resorts consider the Berkshires home and typically attract repeat visitors year after year during the winter months. During summer, thirteen fishing locations, nine
  25. 25. 25 golf resorts, ten historic sites, nineteen health spas, and twenty-seven annual festivals attract tourists from nearby cities and towns. Adventure tourism and adventure recreation is a strong component to the Berkshires appeal. Whitewater rafting and kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and lake sports are among the more popular adventure activities. Whereas the Berkshires have not had the tremendous public investment in adventure tourism as Garrett County, Maryland, the region has benefited from well-planned and strategic regional marketing efforts. Much like Garrett County and the Ozarks, however, the Berkshires have grown tourism-based industries to be one of their economic mainstays. The average per capita income of residents within the four-county Berkshires region was reported to be $26,888 in 2005, according to the local economic development agencies. This statistic is projected to be $30,841 by the year 2010 which reflects a 209% increase from the average per capita income reported in 1990 and a 143% increase from 2000. This rapid growth is largely attributed not only to the direct economic impacts of a growing tourism industry, but also from a greater depth in employment opportunities that have come about from large employers moving into the region. As reported in an interview, Armand and Donald Feigenbaum of the General Systems Company have said that, “Berkshire County is a total quality center, where the community, culture, technology, industry, and history reinforce one another. This makes the Berkshires a great place not only to visit but to work, build, and grow a business.” Best Practices • Regional planners have successfully created a uniform brand for an area that encompasses multiple counties that overrides individual jurisdictions. • The Berkshires brand resonates well with their target markets and is strategically determined based upon the trends and interests of their visitors. • Promotional material for touring in the Berkshires is organized based upon activities and interests of the visitors versus geographically oriented. • The region has developed diversity and depth in its tourism amenities including, but not limited to restaurants, accommodations, attractions and parks. • The regional leaders have leveraged park, recreation and tourism amenities into a quality of life message that further attracts investors and employers to the area.
  26. 26. 26 STAKEHOLDER ASSESSMENT The foundation of this plan is input from a wide variety of key stakeholders, community leaders, and user groups of “adventure recreationists.” This input established the principles, values and vision that guide the decision making process for tourism policy, partnerships, and programs. The stakeholder assessment process was divided into two distinct phases to support the goals of the project. The first phase acquired feedback from community leaders representing over 26 counties of the 33-county area of preliminary study. Community input in this phase provided direction and clarity for establishing an area of focus for the pilot study, as mandated in the project’s scope of work. The second phase of community input engaged more intensive focus group and one-on-one leadership interviews to capture the collective vision for developing adventure tourism in the region. This process revealed remarkable consensus on perceptions of developmental constraints, policy needs, and regional priorities to advance economic development through a sustainable adventure tourism industry. As hoped, there were strong correlations between the perceptions of local leaders and stakeholders and the findings of the situational assessment. The following sections detail a summary of general findings, key issues, priorities, and opportunities as shared with us by the stakeholders of this plan. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS Figure 5 – Area of feedback from community leaders The summary below captures the most significant and consistent findings from the stakeholder interviews and surveys. During the months of March and April 2007, PROS conducted numerous interviews and received feedback through surveys with key leaders and focus groups. In the first phase of the stakeholder assessment, PROS received feedback and direction from twenty (20) community leaders representing 26 counties of the preliminary area of study, an conducted ten (10) focus group sessions with individuals representing varying interests including city, county and state administration; community and economic development organizations; tourism industry associations and businesses; adventure tourism user groups; and interested community members. The stakeholder assessment yielded insight into the perceptions, attitudes, vision, and political will of representatives from all of the 33 counties in the preliminary area of study. Figure 5 demonstrates geographically where feedback was received from community leaders. Public administration officials interviewed and surveyed comprised of directors of multiple Area District Development Offices, elected officials and county executives, a field representative from the Governor’s office, city managers and tourism administrators, city officials and executives, county tourism administrators, and regional tourism development administrators. Leaders were asked to provide feedback on 12 questions related to tourism development constraints and opportunities in Eastern Kentucky, their sense of public perceptions, and their professional vision for the region.
  27. 27. 27 Representatives from various adventure recreation and tourism industries and users were also interviewed and surveyed in order to capture any consensus on the vision for adventure tourism development in eastern Kentucky from a user’s perspective. Interests represented include whitewater sports; rock climbing, mountain biking, all-terrain vehicles (ATV), horseback riding, hiking, and wildlife viewing. Additionally, owners and operators from retail, dining, accommodations, rental and repair, and general service businesses within the pilot study area were interviewed to gather input from people who are largely dependent on adventure-based tourism for their livelihood. OVERALL PERCEPTIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES The following summary presents overall perceptions and perceived opportunities as expressed by the community leaders when interviewed or by survey: • Kentucky State Parks and State Resort Parks are tremendous attractions and are well maintained. • Developing venues for trail sports are a big priority for the region, including hiking, mountain biking, ATV and equestrian trails. • Eastern Kentucky has a rich history and authentic culture that is a source of pride for residents and is well received by visitors. • Many popular adventure sports like rock climbing, mountain biking, and whitewater kayaking and rafting have renowned natural venues in Eastern Kentucky. • Eastern Kentucky’s tourism resources are seemingly unlimited and generally underutilized. • There is a great need for developing and improving infrastructure within Eastern Kentucky communities that will support increased visitation. • Tourism support services including quantity and quality of accommodations, restaurants and service providers are suffering. • Coordinated marketing efforts could result in stronger and more sustained tourism in the region. KEY ISSUES AND AREAS OF WEAKNESS Following are the key issues and areas of weakness identified in the community leader interviews and surveys conducted: • Coordinated and strategic marketing of the region is a key issue that is a source of frustration among communities today. • A lack of cohesive partnering and communicating among groups, venues, events, etc., has held development back. • Local attitudes do not always embrace tourism as a viable industry. • Land and resource accessibility is not always as easy as it seems it should be. • Stabilizing income and education levels of residents is a priority for long-term regional success. • Job creation is critical to supporting economic development in Eastern Kentucky. • Emerging from a historical reputation of heavily polluted natural resources despite the state and region’s success at reclamation and conservation. • Liability concerns are one of the primary inhibitors of public access to private lands for recreational purposes.
  28. 28. 28 VALUES AND MANDATES FOR TOURISM IN EASTERN KENTUCKY The following values and mandates for recreation and tourism development were captured in the community leader interviews and surveys: • Recreation and tourism are not understood by locals for their potential as an economic tool for Eastern Kentucky. • There is great respect for natural and cultural resources held by the local residents. • The conjunctive use of public and private lands for recreational purposes must be protected and expanded. • Increased tourism must be balanced to protect the lifestyles and traditions of the local people, and the quality of the area’s natural resources. TOURISM SUPPORT NEEDS AND OPERATIONAL ISSUES The summary below details the feedback received on the region’s prioritized areas needing support and operational issues with both ongoing and envisioned tourism venues: • Basic infrastructure supporting tourism and quality of life need continued attention. • Enforcing and maintaining security at parks and on trails is very important for both residents and visitors. • Assistance from the state and federal governments for capital investment to assist and partner with local counties would greatly advance tourism development. • Tourism support services including accommodations, restaurants, and incentives to extend your stay need to be developed and improved to protect the quality of the visitor experience. • Incentives for private sector investment in the tourism industry, hospitality and customer services training, and small business development counseling should be advanced. • Agreement on roles and responsibilities of various government agencies, community organizations, and private enterprise for developing, operating and maintaining tourism venues and amenities is critical. • Addressing seasonality in visitor volume will help to sustain economic impacts from tourism. • A concentrated effort to develop local non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) to lead and manage tourism at the local level would help maintain progress. FUNDING REQUIREMENTS AND PARTNERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES Following are the funding requirements and partnership opportunities identified in the community leader interviews and surveys that need be addressed in this Plan: • Funding for trail development and maintenance is a priority. • Funding for cooperative marketing and advertising is greatly needed. • Commitment from local officials and agencies is critical to the region’s success with an adventure tourism initiative. • Capital funding for any major tourism development will need public sector assistance, but operations should be cost-recovery. • Federal and state agencies could increase their involvement with local partnerships (public and private) designed to provide incentives and to develop tourism amenities in the region. • Private enterprise in the tourism industry can expand their pursuit of partnerships designed to increase overall visitation and length of stay.
  29. 29. 29 LONG-TERM VIABILITY OF TOURISM The following outline feedback received from our community leader interviews and surveys about the role they see tourism playing in the long-term economic vitality of the region: • The remoteness of the area makes it very difficult to attract new businesses and manufacturing, but tourism takes advantage of Eastern Kentucky’s great natural resources and friendly people to build a sustainable industry. • Tourism could provide economic viability when coal and other industrial sectors suffer. • Tourism is the renewable resource Eastern Kentucky needs to grow in the 21st century. • Tourism can be the lifeline and future of Appalachia. • A priority should be to develop an integrated and connected network of multi-use trails. • Local workshops supported by public-private partnerships can greatly improve entrepreneurial confidence and skill among our local people. • The “sKYward Trail” system needs to be completed.
  30. 30. 30 PILOT STUDY AREA Following review of the insights provided by interviews and surveys with community leaders, the region that emerges as the recommended area of focus includes the following 18 counties as depicted in Figure 6: • Pike • Floyd • Magoffin • Morgan • Menifee • Powell • Estill • Breathitt • Knott • Letcher • Harlan • Wolfe • Martin • Bell • Johnson • Perry • Bath • Rowan PILOT STUDY AREA CRITERIA The 18-county pilot study area was determined based upon a thorough review of the status of infrastructure and progress these areas have towards adventure tourism development. Specifically, the criteria included political capital, the presence of existing ‘anchor tenants’ in the tourism industry, inclusion in ‘sKYward trail coalition, areas classified as ‘economically distressed’ per Appalachian Regional Commission standards, and an area that more easily facilitated multi-jurisdictional cooperation for the purposes of a regional adventure tourism initiative. Figure 6 – Recommended pilot study area Regional Political Capital The multi-jurisdictional district defined as the focus for this Adventure Tourism Master Plan must be an area that demonstrates an appropriate level of political capital available to leverage toward the plan’s success. Capital in this sense is defined by both tangible and intangible elements. Tangible Capital Tangible capital is defined more specifically as the availability of real resources that are either currently applied toward tourism development or can be. Within the initial 33 counties of the Appalachian Highlands (region 8) and Daniel Boone Country (region 9) tourism regions there is great diversity of tangible capital available for investment in tourism development. The distribution of those resources are biased towards a few number of counties that have grown a more valuable tax base over the last few decades than their neighbors and peers within eastern Kentucky.
  31. 31. 31 Tangible capital includes a review of a county’s assessable tax base, ratio of debt service to overall operating expenses, existing annual tourism revenues, and an inventory of both public and private services within the tourism and recreation economy. Intangible Capital Intangible capital is far more difficult to define beyond a measure of enthusiasm demonstrated by community leaders toward the value of tourism to eastern Kentucky’s overall economic health. For purposes of this plan, it is assumed that community leaders have acquired their standing and level of responsibility by adequately representing the interests of their various constituencies. For a tourism initiative to achieve any milestones within the short, mid and long term outlook for the region it must have a solid political footing to begin with. Areas that are experiencing resistance from residents and leaders to tourism growth will predictably under-perform towards the economic development goals derived from increased visitation to their area. It is therefore the recommendation of this plan to select an area of focus that demonstrates a track record for embracing the value of tourism to economic growth, or in the least a desire to legitimately pursue tourism development. Existing “Anchor Tenants” Much like any major commercial development, a regional tourism initiative will be most successful by building upon the notoriety and market exposure that can come from anchor tenants. In the case of eastern Kentucky, adventure tourism’s anchor tenants include those facilities and attractions that are currently well established, or those that provide an opportunity for substantial market responsiveness as a result of their quality, uniqueness or niche. There are several existing facilities and attractions that serve this purpose on the defined focus area for this study: • Knott County ATV and Adventure Park – Knott County • Black Mountain Recreation Park – Harlan County • Red River Gorge – Powell County • River Gorge / Natural Bridge Trail – Powell, Menifee, Bath and Rowan Counties • Cave Run Lake – Rowan / Bath County • Natural Bridge State Resort Park – Powell County • Jenny Wiley State Resort Park – Floyd County • Jenny Wiley Heritage Trail – Floyd, Johnson, Martin Counties (within pilot study area) • Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park – Perry County • Buckhorn Loop Trail – Perry and Knott Counties • Pine Mountain Trail – Pike, Letcher, Harlan and Bell Counties • Russell Fork River – Pike County • Kingdom Come State Park – Harlan County • Kingdom Come State Park Nature Preserve, Letcher County • Carr Creek State Park – Knott County • Paintsville Lake State Park – Johnson County • Pine Mountain State Resort Park – Bell County • Cumberland Gap National Historic Park – Bell County
  32. 32. 32 • Breaks Interstate Park – Pike County • Sheltowee Trace Trail – Daniel Boone National Forest • Natural Bridge State Park Nature Preserve – Powell County • Pilot Knob State Nature Preserve – Powell County • John B. Stephenson Memorial Forest State Nature Preserve - Rockcastle County • Bad Branch SNP – Letcher County • Hi-Lewis Pine Barrens* - Letcher County • Blanton Forest SNP – Harlan County • Pine Mountain Trail State Park Nature Preserve – Harlan County • Stone Mountain Wildlife Management Area/State Natural Area (WMA/SNA) – Harlan County • Martin's Fork Wildlife Management Area/State Natural Area – Harlan County • James E. Bickford SNP (at Pine Mtn. Settlement School) – Harlan County • Pine Mtn. State Park Nature Preserve – Bell County Mountain Trail Development Coalition By far one of the more progressive tourism initiatives within eastern Kentucky is the Mountain Trail Development Coalition. This 501(c)3, non-profit organization has been created to develop and manage a system of integrated, multi-use trails for ATV and off-road vehicles, equestrian, mountain bike, and hiking access that traverses through 12 counties of the region. The counties in Figure 7 are included within the scope of the sKYward Trail Project. This plan would be remiss to not include this region within the adventure tourism master plan for eastern Kentucky. Facilitate Multi-jurisdictional Coordination The most redundant feedback received regarding constraints to regional tourism development through the leadership interviews and focus groups was frustration f the lack of multi-jurisdictional coordination among counti area development districts, and private enterprise for this purpose. rom es, Figure 7 – sKYward Trail Project Undoubtedly, the most successful regional tourism initiative will include jurisdictions strategically selected because of their desire to be a part of something larger and their development potential from concerted tourism efforts. The 18 counties selected to be the focus area of this plan were chosen based upon their ability to take advantage of these criteria and easily facilitate a coordinated regional effort.
  33. 33. 33 DEMOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS The Demographic analysis provides a clear understanding of the market size, economic factors, and trends that will assist in determining the potential client base within the target market area. METHODOLOGY The most current data used for this analysis; base data is derived from the 2000 U.S. Census, current estimates are shown as 2006, and projections for 2011 (five year projection) and 2021 (15-year projections). The demographic data was obtained from Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI), the largest research and development organization dedicated to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and specializing in population projections and market trends; for comparison purposes data was also obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. All data was acquired in May 2007, and reflects actual numbers as reported in the 2000 Census and demographic projections for 2006 and 2011 as estimated by ESRI, with straight line linear regression used for projected 2016 and 2021 demographics. The Eastern Kentucky boundaries for this region (the Region) comprised of 18 counties within the Pilot Study area was utilized as the demographic analysis area. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS The region is comprised of small, economically challenged communities nestled into the rugged wilderness and mountains of southeastern Kentucky and meet specific criteria defined throughout this report. The estimated 2006 population for the Region is a total of 405,634, projected 2011 population of 406,406, and projected 409,418 and 411,870 in 2016 and 2021, respectively. In the larger counties, six (6) of the eighteen (18) counties estimate a total population between 20,000 and 35,000; and only two (2) counties have populations above this segment; 42,638 in Floyd County and the largest county population of 68,929 in Pike County, In comparison, the smaller counties include ten (10) of the eighteen (18) counties in this region with an estimated population below 20,000; Breathitt, Estill, and Knott are between 15,000 and 20,000; Bath, Magoffin, Martin, Morgan, and Powell are between 10,000 and 15,000; and Menifee and Wolfe are below 10,000; Menifee with the lowest county population of 7,021. Following a decade of stagnation in which the Region grew by 0.5% from 1990 to 2000, the population has witnessed a period of minute growth in which it is estimated that the total Region population grew by 1.0% from 2000 to 2006, adding 4,132 persons, and is projected to grow at lower percentages through 2021; 0.2% and 772 persons from 2006 to 2011; 0.7% and 3,012 persons from 2011 to 2016; and 0.6% and 2,452 persons from 2016 to 2021. Gender distribution is slanted toward the female population which consists of slightly more than 50.9%; however, the male populace experienced a 1.9% growth from 2000 to 2006 as opposed to the 0.2% growth experienced in the female segment. Although there is movement among gender categories, the total population of the Region has remained relatively unchanged since 2000 (Figure 8).
  34. 34. 34 204,667 196,835 205,049 200,585 205,049 201,357 205,304 204,114 205,495 206,375 - 50,000 100,000 150,000 200,000 250,000 300,000 350,000 400,000 450,000 2000 Census 2006 Estimate 2011 Projection 2016 Projection 2021 Projection Overall 18 County Area, KY; Total Population, by Gender - Male - Female Source: ESRI F 8 –igure Population by gender Figure 9 - Households HOUSEHOLD SIZE AND INCOME CHARACTERISTICS 177,821 172,708 - 20,000 40,000 60,000 80,000 100,000 120,000 140,000 160,000 180,000 166,977163,720 156,752 In 2006 there was an estimated 163,720 households in the region, an increase of 4.4% from the 2000 Census. The household size has actually decreased – from 2.50 persons per household at the time of the 2000 Census to an estimated 2.42 persons. As forecasted in the population trends, an increase in the general population normally tend to lead to a greater number of households, albeit at a relatively smaller growth percentage (Figure 9). 2000 Census 2006 Estimate 2011 Projection 2016 Projection 2021 Projection Overall 18 County Area, KY; Total Households Source: ESRI It is projected that by 2021, the region will have 3.0% more households than currently estimated. AGE SEGMENTATION Population categorization by major age segment demonstrates the relative youth of the Region’s service area by the four marketing groups – children/youth, early adulthood and child bearing, child rearing and peak income, and mature adults (Figure 10 on the following page). The largest of the four major age segments is comprised of the peak earners, those aged 35-54; the peak earners make up 30.3% of the 2006 estimated populace. Currently, the children/youth, defined as those aged 18 and below form the smallest combined age segment (22.1%), and are relatively
  35. 35. 35 comparable to the early adulthood and child bearing segment with (22.7%). Based on growth projections through 2021, the 55 years and above segment is projected to seize the largest percentage increase as compared to the population as a whole – 8.8% growth from 2006 to 2021, resulting in a total age segment increase of 37,942 (100,859 estimated persons in 2006; 138,801 estimated persons in 2 In contrast, national estimate those aged fifty- five and above total nearly one quarter (22.5%) of total U.S. population. 97,221 95,200 121,046 88,035 89,476 92,230 123,069 100,859 88,917 82,938 121,157 113,394 83,567 77,861 121,868 126,122 79,415 71,730 121,924 138,801 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 2000 Census 2006 Estimate 2011 Projection 2016 Projection 2021 Projection Overall 18 County Area, KY; Population by Major Age Segment 55+ 35-54 18-34 <18 Source: ESRI Figure 10 – Population by major age segment 021). trends the uring the fifteen year study period (2006 to 2021), only the baby-boomer segment is projected to crease in size of the orange block, which represents a 5.5% increase in population share of esenting a 0.7% decrease in population share of the D increase in total size – the other segments, under-18, 18-34, and 35-54 age segments are expected to actually decline in total size. Two trends that may be observed in the breakdown of major age segmentation are: • The in the senior adults between 2006 and 2021 • The decrease in size of the blue block repr children/youth category, and the decrease in size of the maroon block, which represents a 7.6% decrease in the early adulthood and child bearing category
  36. 36. 36 Overall 18 County Area, KY; Population Trends by Grouped Segments - 20,000 40,000 60,000 80,000 100,000 120,000 140,000 <6 6-10 11-12 13-15 16-17 18-34 35-54 55+ 2021 Projection 2016 Projection 2011 Projection 2006 Estimate 2000 Census Source: ESRI Figure 11 – Population growth trends Viewing population growth trends by the eight major transitional segments of the lifecycle (Figure 11) allows for planning of programs and services based on like interests and desires of the user through the maturation process. It is possible to quickly view the projected aging of the Region’s service area’s constituents by viewing the gradual lengthening of the red bars of the top two lifecycle segments in Figure 11 as opposed to the stagnant growth, or slight shortening, of the red bars in the six lower/younger lifecycle segments. During the projected trend period (2006 to 2021), the lifecycle segments with the highest rates of decline are those aged 6-10 years (13.8% decrease) and 18-34 years (decrease of 7.1%); however, those between the ages of thirteen and fifteen are projected to be the only significant increase (7.8%) on populace under the age of thirty-five. INCOME CHARACTERISTICS The Region’s income categories – median, average, and per capita – are projected to continue the trend of incremental increases similar to those experienced between 2000 and 2006 (Figure 11). Currently, the average household income in the Region is $36,948; this represents the earnings of all persons age 15 years or older living together in a housing unit. The Region’s average household income for 2006 is nearly forty-one percent (40.9%) less than that of the average U.S. household income reported for
  37. 37. 37 2005 of $62,556 (Figure 12); when compared to the average household income of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Region is 24.7% less. The median household income for the Region, the middle point when all household incomes are compared in ascending order, is currently estimated at $25,781 and per capita income estimated at $15,140 – both of which are significantly lower than those of the U.S. averages, by 31.0% and 26.3%, respectively. Although median household income has risen in the past years nationwide, total individual income has dropped; this phenomenon is due to the increase in multiple household occupants participating in the work force. $21,377 $30,706 $12,028 $25,306 $36,388 $14,927 $29,066 $42,172 $17,569 32,458 $47,161 20,039 35,945 $52,357 22,554 $0 $10,000 $20,000 $30,000 $40,000 $50,000 2000 Census 2006 Estimate 2011 Projection 2016 Projection 2021 Projection Overall 18 County Area, KY; Income Characteristics Median HH Income Average HH Income Per Capita Income Figure 12 - Income characteristics Source: ESRI Comparing 2006 average household income county by county reveals the highest averages in Rowan County with an average of $45,761; Bath County with $43,204; and Johnson County with $42,725. The lowest average household income includes: Wolfe County with $30,645; Martin County with $31,399; and Magoffin County with $32,707. AVERAGE EDUCATION ATTAINMENT Based on the 2000 Census, the latest data available for the educational analysis, nearly 33% of the regions populace 25 and older are a high school graduate; 9.5% of all persons 25 and above have a bachelors and/or higher education degree. Rowan County by far leads the Region with an 11% attainment rate in both bachelors and higher education degrees, with a public institution, Morehead University located there. Four counties in the Region have private colleges – Bell, Breathitt, Knott and Pike counties. The Big Sandy Community & Technical College is public and services Floyd, Johnson,
  38. 38. 38 Magoffin, Pike, and other surrounding counties. Harlan and Perry counties also are part of the Community & Technical College family with Hazard Community and Technical College and Southeast Community and Technical College. Segment of workforce in: • Manufacturing • Mining • Timber: • Petroleum / Chemical • Tourism / Hospitality • Medical • Professional • Public service / governmental • Other Based on 2006 estimates, the largest segment of the Region’s workforce is employed in the Services industry (40%), while Retail employs 14%, and Agricultural/Mining and Manufacturing segments both employ 10% of the workforce. The Region’s employment segmented by occupation indicates 48% of the population is white collar and 36% blue collar. ETHNICITY Ethnic minority groups in the United States are strongly regionalized and urbanized, with the exception of Native Americans, and these trends are projected to continue. As with many consumer goods, different ethnic groups have different needs when it comes to recreational activities. Ethnic minority groups are coming in ever-greater contact with white middle-class baby-boomers with different recreational habits and preferences. This can be a sensitive subject since many baby-boomers are the last demographic to have graduated high school in segregated environments. However, this trend is projected to increase as more baby-boomers begin to retire and the minority populations continue to increase.
  39. 39. 39 MARKET ASSESSMENT The market assessment includes the definition of the core program market supported by key activities and programs, the size of the core program market, and market positioning. The outcome of this task will be used to establish a concept development plan including operational and economic outcomes and partnership/management alternatives. Eastern Kentucky has both existing and potential options beyond the core list featured above for visiting tourists. The popular existing options include, but are not limited to numerous historical and cultural attractions, events and festivals; limited golf courses of varying levels of upkeep and quality; numerous fishing and hunting opportunities with the proper permits; wildlife viewing; and a select list of recommended driving tours. The relative remoteness of the region does not lend to spontaneous visitation patterns or visitors that may only participate in activities during an evening after work. The vast majority of out-of-county visitors will regard the amenities of eastern Kentucky more as a destination in their travels, at least for the weekend if not for longer periods of time. For this reason, it is critical that the region offer amenities, attractions and activities that can appeal to visitors who may be looking for more tourism options. CORE PROGRAM MARKET As indicated throughout the previous sections of this report, there are traditional adventure recreation and tourism activities and markets that eastern Kentucky is uniquely equipped to develop further. Therefore, the recommended core program markets include: • Paddle sports such as flat-water and whitewater kayaking, canoeing and rafting • Rock climbing and rappelling • Multiple trail sports including mountain biking, ATV and off-road vehicles, horseback riding, and hiking • Lake sports • Wildlife viewing Additional details on each of these core program markets follow. PADDLE SPORTS Paddle sports have been among the fastest growing types of recreation in the United States for the last decade (Outdoor Industry Foundation, Outdoor Recreation Participation Study, Eighth Edition, for 2005, June 2006). These activities include flat-water canoeing and kayaking, and whitewater kayaking, canoeing and rafting. The following demographics and characteristics of Americans participating in paddle sports were identified in the Outdoor Industry Foundation report referenced above: • There are approximately 12.6 million paddle sport participants, not including those who annually or occasionally participate in guided whitewater rafting, who went on approximately 86 million outings for paddling in 2005. • Non-whitewater paddling is more popular than whitewater among enthusiasts, who also demonstrate cross-over preferences to other sports that include mountain biking, fishing (non-fly) and trail running. • Paddling enthusiasts went on an average of six paddling outings in 2005.
  40. 40. 40 • Paddling participation is so demographically balanced on the dimensions of gender, age, marital status, children in household, and region to suggest that these activities have wide appeal across the greater US population. • Paddling enthusiasts feature a larger proportion of participants (44%) with an average annual household income greater than $80,000 than all trail sports and rock climbing participation researched in this study The most noteworthy venues for tourists seeking paddle sport outings include the Russell Fork River and the numerous lakes throughout the region. The Russell Fork only features four weekend releases annually that floods the streambed sufficiently to create class IV and class V whitewater. There are interested members of the community who are avid whitewater paddlers and are interested to pursue grants and other funding opportunities in order to design and construct an in-channel wave feature with considerably easier access that would appeal to more paddlers while easing the access burden typically required when paddling the Russell Fork. Additional popular paddling venues include the Red River, Elkhorn Creek, Big South Fork of the Cumberland, North Fork of the Cumberland, and Poor Fork of the Cumberland. ROCK CLIMBING AND RAPPELLING The Outdoor Industry Foundation’s 2005 Outdoor Recreation Participation Study reported 9.2 million individuals participating routinely in rock climbing and climbing related sports. The following additional demographic characteristics were also identified: • In 2005, 9.2 million participants went on 51 million outings, an average of six outings annually per participant. • The mean age of climbing participants is 27 years, with a gender breakdown at 73% male and 27% female. • Sixty-two percent (62%) of climbers in 2005 were reported to be unmarried, and 71% were Caucasian. • The majority of climbers participating in outings in 2005 had annual household incomes over $40,000. Forty-six percent (46%) reported annual household incomes between $40,000 and $79,000, while 28% reported household incomes over $80,000. Eastern Kentucky contains a climbing area widely acclaimed as within the top five climbing areas in the United States, and within the top ten around the world. The Red River Gorge is proclaimed to be an area that has superb all-around climbing opportunities for enthusiasts ranging from beginner to professional in skill, reliable access, comfortable climate and beautiful surrounding wilderness. Another climbing area identified with reliable access in the region is Bad Branch Falls State Natural Area, which does not currently feature any improved amenities to appeal to climbing visitors. TRAIL SPORTS Trail sports for this plan are considered as a broad category that captures activities and venues with current massive appeal throughout the region, the state, and the country. Activities within this category include mountain biking, ATV and off-road vehicles, horseback riding, backpacking, trail running and hiking.
  41. 41. 41 The Outdoor Industry Foundation’s 2005 Outdoor Recreation Participation Study reported following demographics of participation among the activities in 2005 as shown in Figure 13. Activity Number of Participants Average Number of Outings Average Age Household Income Data Mountain biking 50 million 19 25 < $40K: 34% $40-79K: 40% $80K+: 27% ATV / motorized off-road vehicles 42.4 million 28 34 < $40K: 28% $40-79K: 49% $80K+: 23% Backpacking 13.5 million 6 31 < $40K: 31% $40-79K: 47% $80K+: 31% Trail running 40.4 million 33 29 < $40K: 33% $40-79K: 36% $80K+: 31% Hiking 76.7 million 11 38 < $40K: 30% $40-79K: 40% $80K+: 29% Figure 13 - Trail sports demographics Equestrian trail riding and horse-related sports also boast a tremendous impact to both the national and local economies. As reported by the American Horse Council, 42% of the approximate 9.2 million horses in the United States are owned and used for recreational trail riding purposes. Over 2 million people are horse owners contributing to nearly 4.6 million people who are involved in the industry either as owners, breeders, trainers, service providers, or otherwise. In total, the horse industry in the United States has a direct economic impact of $39 billion annually. This contributes to a total economic impact of $102 billion annually when the multiplier effect of spending by suppliers and employees of horse-related services is taken into account.

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