Revitalized downtown can provide a local boost

October 23, 2013

We don’t expect Hazard’s Main Street will ever recapture its heyday from the 1950s, or at least not in the same manner. Those days are history. But that doesn’t mean Main Street and the city’s entire downtown can’t be made into something else just as attractive, and we’re hopeful a downtown revitalization committee is on the right track to do just that.

Several topics were discussed during the committee’s meeting last week at City Hall, from an art walk to the upcoming downtown farmer’s market set for this week. The committee is laying the groundwork for what could eventually become a downtown transformed into a community boosted by the arts, increased local business, and perhaps most importantly by outside interest in the city and what it has to offer.

Perhaps what we are most hopeful for at present is an ongoing effort that could result in a walking trail along the North Fork of the Kentucky River and Hazard becoming a river trail town. We think capitalizing on the river as a resource beyond a source for drinking water is a smart move. We should be working to draw people to our town, and the river trail initiative, if it comes to fruition, should do just that.

We also wonder, in the wake of a down coal economy, how much extra benefit can be derived from the existing rail infrastructure, especially in terms of local tourism. We have little doubt visitors would enjoy a ride through century-old tunnels and the scenic valleys our county has to offer that can only be viewed easily on the local railroads. It may be worth a look.

Either way, it’s not going to be an easy effort by any stretch of the imagination, and the committee working on this issue is well aware. But it’s an effort worth support from the community not only for the improvement of our city, but for the betterment of our local economy and the quality of life for our people.

Part of this effort will be to attract small businesses and entrepreneurs to the area. Perry County in August recorded an unemployment rate of 12.1 percent, well above the state and national averages. Any emphasis on job creation is one that should be given a serious look.

Hazard has a lot of potential, we think, and always has. The city has a rich history from the date of its settlement to the French Eversole War in the late 19th century, and with the modern coal era the city’s business interests sprawled outward from downtown to encompass new communities built on reclaimed strip mines. The city’s next chapter is being written at present, and where the city goes now is going to be up to the people.

— The Hazard Herald