The Kentucky Wildlands: Building a Recreation Destination 

In Southeastern Kentucky, The Kentucky Wildlands is driving economic development and regional tourism across 14,000-square-miles of “largely untamed wilderness.” The initiative, launched by Eastern Kentucky PRIDE, currently offers maps, itineraries, educational materials, and more to communities and visitors. Now, with a $1.2 million ARC POWER grant awarded in March 2022, Kentucky Wildlands will expand this branding initiative to 41 counties.  

This tourism support is great news for coal-impacted communities that are revitalizing and diversifying their economies. Though progress has been made by ARC state partners and grantees, all but three counties in Appalachian Kentucky are economically distressed or at-risk. The distress, however, is far outweighed by the opportunity in Kentucky Wildland communities. By marketing itself as a regional recreation destination, Southeastern Kentucky can attract more visitors to both its outdoor sites and main streets, which can in turn spur small business growth and downtown revitalization.    

Kentucky Wildlands will use POWER support to develop a robust regionalized tourism marketing plan, conduct hospitality workforce trainings in communities, expand its digital presence, catalog National Historic Properties throughout Appalachian Kentucky, and more. By the end of the two-year project period, Kentucky Wildlands expects to serve 118 communities and create 100 jobs.  

Kentucky Wildlands is one of many ARC POWER grantees that are building culture, outdoor recreation, and tourism to transform coal-impacted communities. We’re proud to support their efforts to bring communities together through a common vision that creates opportunities for each of them.