Eastern Kentucky’s Red River Gorge spans four counties and is known locally for its natural beauty, biologic diversity, and fantastic rock climbing, hiking, and camping. An estimated 7,500 climbers visit the gorge annually, which generates a $3.6 million impact on the regional economy. However, the park is undercapitalized, and there are limited options for overnight accommodations. In September of 2020, using ARC support, the Red River Economic Development LLC (RRED) released a master plan and feasibility study to analyze national and state tourism trends and evaluate a series of potential tourism development concepts for the gorge area to create jobs and grow the local economy.
The 10 year master plan focuses on five big ideas: investing economic development in the gorge’s town, diversify attractions, maintaining regional trails, and developing a comprehensive branding and marketing strategy. Anchoring these efforts are plans for a full-service LEED-certified resort complex offering lodging, conference facilities, adventure hubs, trail access, and other amenities to serve visitors. Once completed, the project is anticipated to create over 500 jobs. Projections also include attracting over 500,000 visitors, generating more than $18 million in wages and more than $79 million economic impacts annually.