Pathfinders of Perry County have been at work for more than a year developing recreational trails in the Perry County Park. That work paid off this week when Hazard and Perry County were designated as the 20th Kentucky Trail Town by the Kentucky Office of Adventure Tourism.
On Tuesday, August 13, Pathfinders, elected officials, community members and more gathered at the park to celebrate the opening of the newest set of trails. The completion of the Perry Park Trail System brings the total number of trails within Perry County to seven.
Jenny Williams, of Pathfinders, said the project had been discussed for years before development began.
“Pathfinders of Perry County started in 2006 and, even longer than that, we’ve been coming up here and walking on these logging roads and gas roads and saying you know what would be really good is if we had some good trails,” said Williams. “Then Ben Braman stepped up and now we have good trails.”
Ben Braman, of Pathfinders, has spearheaded the construction of both the Healthy Mile walking trail and the Perry Park System Hiking Trail, said the completion of the trails was the result of work done by local teens.
“We had Hazard High School, we had EKU kids, we had kids all the way from Notre Dame,” he said. “We had so many people I can’t even remember that showed up and spent over 3,000 hours of volunteer service, over 3,000 hours of showing up, getting dirty and moving rock.”
Braman added that the group had likely moved more than 80 tons of rock by hand during this summer alone. Braman also said that the community the kids of which the kids are a part has done a lot to help the trail development.
“These kids showed up and worked, our local businesses showed up and fed these kids who showed up and worked,” said Braman. “Thats what made this project come together and my favorite part of it is that the kids became so involved, which, in turn, brought the whole community into this project.”
Williams said that the hiking trails are a great and accessible addition to recreation in Perry County.
“Hiking is something everybody for the most part can do, it doesn’t cost anything, it’s accessible, and, now that it’s right here in town, it’s even more accessible,” said Williams. “Our local elected officials have been crucial in making this happen. This was a 3.2 mile trail grant that we received because of all this help that we received we doubled that.”
Many of the elected officials who represent Perry County were present at the trails opening
“Last year in West Virginia eight West Virginia counties brought in $22.5 million worth of revenue through tourism, trail systems and, so we’re on the right track in Perry County,” said state Rep. Chris Fugate. “I’m glad that, because of the hard work of all the people that’s starting these trails, establishing these trails and building these trails, we’re way ahead of a lot of different counties.”
Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini was also present at the opening and thanked Braman for his efforts.
“This wouldn’t be possible without Ben, it takes somebody to spearhead it,” said Mobelini. “Every kid we’ve had at the high school that i’ve talked to, all they talk about are these trails and if you get the kids involved everyone else will get involved.”
Perry Judge-Executive Scott Alexander said projects like this help improve the county.
“We are doing the things that we know we are capable of doing right here,” said Alexander. “Our primary goal each and every day is we know we have to create jobs. We have to create a tax-based economy that is sustainable. You wonder why that plays into the trails? Because you’ve got to have recreation for the people to do.”
Braman said that, while the Perry Park Trail System is open, the crew has about 25 percent of work left to do on them and then move on to develop different trails in Perry County. “When this project is done we’re going over to Buckhorn we’re going to work on some stuff over there, we have some other grants and we’re not stopping there,” said Braman. He also urged the people of Perry County to realize the advantages our community has and protect them. “Perry County has amazing assets, we need to keep them clean, we need to take care of them, but we also need to advertise them,” said Braman, “we need to let people know what we have.”
The trails in Perry County include the Leatherwood Trail and Moonshine Trail at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park, the North Fork River kayak trail and the River Arts Greenway in downtown Hazard, the Healthy Mile behind ARH Medical Mall, the Perry Park Trail System and the TransAmerica Bike Route (USBR 76).
Guided hikes are done weekly on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. at the Perry Park Trail System. For more information about the trails and guided hikes visit the Pathfinders of Perry County on Facebook.