Good Read: Editorial in Kentucky Standard

Posted by Spalding Hurst

August 26, 2012

Potential for adventure tourism exists in Bardstown

Several years ago National Geographic Traveler magazine spotlighted Bardstown as one of the 50 top future “Adventure Towns” in the United States, based on existing attractions and most importantly plans being developed by Bardstown Boaters, a boating enthusiasts club best known for their Paddle Pickup Beech Fork River cleanup efforts.

The potential is still there, but in the two years-plus since the city was given a draft plan for turning the area just east of the New Haven Road bridge into a mini white water recreation park things seem “dead in the water”.

The boaters wisely appealed to the city’s need for an enhanced raw water supply to help justify the price tag of $400,000. Unfortunately, a sour economy has intervened and in the absence of a major grant the potential cited by National Geographic remains only a dream.

But the clock is ticking.

Right bank erosion on the river was noted in the 2010 report from Colorado-based “River Restoration,” erosion that has the potential to eventually impact the 20-year-old pumping station that pushes water from the river to Sympson Lake. Meanwhile, the vintage 1928 “rubble dam” that provides a pooling effect for the pumps is slowly sinking into the river bed, decreasing the amount of water available to pump.

Clearly this is not a situation where the status quo can last much longer. River Restoration recommends increasing the height of the dam using either an inflatable bladder or a pre-cast structure. Development of the park could proceed concurrently with the improvement of the dam and, although thorny issues such as parking and other facilities would offer challenges. The park would be a major boost for both local recreation and a tourist draw.

The potential for Sympson Lake as a recreational facility remains largely untapped. Down through the years the Standard has editorially decried the neglect of this scenic gem that sits west of town, crying out for trails, picnic areas and non-motorized boating. With a city council election looming, it might be a good time to have the city take a fresh look at how we can use both of these water-related opportunities to our advantage to, at least in small measure, try to capture the potential National Geographic saw in Bardstown as a future “Adventure Town.”

Adventure tourism is booming across the country, and although our appeal as part of the Bourbon Trail and our Historic tourism is strong, we cannot afford to neglect this growing segment.

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