By Austin Williams
The London-Laurel County Tourism Commission has taken another step to shore up London’s credentials as a “Trail Town.”
The commission is now a corporate member of the Sheltowee Trace Association (STA), according to a post on the association’s Facebook page.
“We look forward to a long beneficial partnership,” the announcement said.
The STA is a nonprofit whose stated goals are to “protect, preserve, and promote” the roughly 300-mile long National Recreation Trail, which runs the length of the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky and passes into Pickett State Park in Tennessee.
Locally, the trail runs through both Laurel and Whitley counties, skirting Laurel Lake and the Cumberland River and crossing into McCreary County at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.
According to the association’s website, corporate membership comes at a cost of 50 dollars a year, but to executive director Steve Barbour the money is a small part of the benefit to both parties from this alliance.
He called it a “natural partnership” in which organizations like the Tourist Commission advertise and attract new users to the trail, while the STA offers municipalities advice on how best to meet the needs of “the user community.”
Needs, such as lodging, shuttle services to and from trailheads, and stores offering outdoor gear will then ideally be met by the local business community, Barbour said.
Tourist commission co-executive director Rodney Hendrickson echoed Barbour’s desire to bring more people to the Sheltowee and to trails in the area generally.
London has applied to be officially named a trail town by the Kentucky Office of Tourism. Hendrickson was enthusiastic about London’s qualifications for the designation, which would make London eligible for marketing funds and other assistance from the state.
“[W]ith the Daniel Boone National Forest and the Rockcastle River in our backyard, the potential is there for our area to become Kentucky’s ‘mecca’ for cyclists, hikers, paddlers, and backpackers.”