Lexington landowner Burgess Carey’s controversial plan to open a facility in Fayette County that would include hiking and mountain bike trails, along with a canopy tour over the Boone Creek Gorge, also includes areas of Clark County.
Boone Creek Outdoors would stretch across southern portions of Fayette and Clark counties. It also would include a children’s activity center, a ropes course and limited camping, according to its operational management plan. The entrance to the facility would be at 8291 Old Richmond Road, off the Clay’s Ferry exit of Interstate 75.
Carey’s plan is to develop additional activities from the canopy tour, and the tour would provide the management resources necessary to maintain them.
In January, the Fayette County Board of Adjustments rejected Carey’s request for a conditional use permit to operate the facility, mainly because of the canopy tour. Board members deemed the proposed zip line to be an amusement park ride, and the entire facility to be an amusement park, which would violate county ordinances, Carey said.
If zoning issues are not worked out in Fayette County, Carey would look to redesign the canopy tour to be strictly on the Clark County side, he said during a recent tour of the property.
The original tour would begin near the facility entrance and cross back and forth between Fayette and Clark counties. Under a modified plan, Carey said, “we can still highlight all the things I’m talking about, just logistically it doesn’t work as easily.”
“But what we would do in that case is probably have the guests come down to (a point) ... and then cross a pedestrian bridge ... over to the Clark County side, and then at that point, be on the tour over on the Clark County side,” he said.
For any or all of the recreational activities to operate in Clark County, Boone Creek Outdoors would have to apply for a conditional use permit through the Winchester-Clark County Board of Adjustments, said Rhonda Cromer, director of planning and development. A¿conditional use permit allows the local community, through public hearings, to permit special uses of land that are not normally allowed.
If the canopy tour was moved entirely to the Clark side, the county would receive all of that tax revenue. Nancy Turner, executive director of the Winchester-Clark County Tourism Commission, brought up this possibility at a recent tourism commission meeting and was met with positive response.
“I would love to see this work. This would be wonderful,” Turner said at the meeting.
Carey said he has communicated with several local leaders, including Turner, Cromer and Judge-Executive Henry Branham. He hopes to apply for the conditional use permit this spring.
Carey’s plan described the overall goal of Boone Creek Outdoors as an effort to benefit communities by creating both seasonal and year-round employment, to increase outdoor recreation and to increase awareness of the area’s ecosystems. It also aims to protect those ecosystems, along with neighboring properties, from trespassers.
Currently, Carey operates a private fishing club, the Boone Creek Angler’s Club, on a portion of the property. He said the recreational facility would allow members of the public to see natural and historic resources that are not easily accessible to them now.
“Clark County could certainly benefit from, I think, the exposure that an opportunity like this could bring,” he said.
The project plan states that the canopy tour could support up to 20,000 visitors annually. Carey estimated that the canopy tour could create between eight and 30 jobs seasonally, with a minimum year-round staff of about eight.
“And those are good jobs. At least four to six of them are well-paid jobs, and these are going to have to be talented people, but the entry-level jobs would be perfect for young graduates, college graduates, graduate students, that sort of thing,” he said, “and be complementary to other types of part-time employment, you know, develop real skills and leadership.”
Carey called the remote area that the tour would highlight “a jewel” and said it could provide “a world-class canopy tour and a real destination.”
Carey said he never intended for his idea to be controversial, but a way to prevent “brain drain” in Kentucky and to bring new people to the area. He also said the project could show visitors that there is more to central Kentucky than its horse industry.
“They get back in their car and they head to wherever they’re going, and they feel differently about central Kentucky and are more likely to spend more time here when they come back through the area,” he said. “Maybe they come do the tour again, or maybe they go check out other attractions like Lower Howard’s Creek, or Raven’s Run, or the Red River Gorge.”
Those interested in touring the property can email Carey at email@example.com.
Contact Katie Perkowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter, @TheSunKatie.