While school might be out for some college students, the work being done by those at Eastern Kentucky University's Department of Recreation and Park Administration will continue on after the work they've done with the Kentucky River Water Trail.

The Kentucky River Water Trail is a project of the Kentucky Riverkeeper, a nonprofit devoted to the preservation of the river and the communities that depend upon it. The group focuses on education, research/monitoring, litigation, advocacy and listening to the voices of citizens and leaders throughout the watershed. The Kentucky Riverkeeper is part of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a group of more than 300 “keepers” around the world, according to the organization's website.

Students in Brian Clark's Department of Recreation and Park Administration class were tasked to develop a marketing plan and presentation for the Kentucky River Water Trail.

The students also had to develop specific areas to market this project, such as local business owners, local politicians and county judges. Students were required to research and compare this project to other water trails that currently exist. The class of 33 was divided into eight small groups and gave their presentations to Pat and Alan Banks and other Kentucky Riverkeeper board members over the past couple of weeks.

"The students get really invested in the project and process throughout the semester and usually it doesn’t stop there," Clark said. "They continue to be invested in this type of opportunity and want to see it through fruition."

Clark said that not only have the students become invested in the Kentucky River Water Trail, but they can now see what the potential outcomes and benefits can be from a tourism and recreation standpoint. According to Clark, the students made comments such as:

“I was interested in this entire project. First, I did not know it existed which was shocking to me, with the project so close to home. The project was of high interest to me personally because I am an avid outdoorsman, I love to interact with nature in numerous ways such as fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, hiking, kayaking, etc. This project encompasses many of my interests and my desire to conserve and protect our natural resources for ensuring their wise use and continued existence for generations to come. I am inspired by the project and hope for the best outcome, which entails getting the Kentucky River designated and established as a river water trail.”

Pat, who is a founding member of the board and director, and her husband, Alan Banks, have been board members for more than 10 years. The two have been working side by side in an effort to build a water trail that will connect the headwaters through Beattyville all the way north to Carrollton, KY.

The Kentucky River has over 256 miles of gorgeous palisades, creeks, parks and wild lands. The goal is to work on connectivity of the whole river by advocating portages around each of the 14 locks and dams and increased access to each pool. Pool 9, 10 and part of 11 are in Madison County, according to Banks.

The Kentucky River Water Trail was selected in 2011 as one of 100 projects across the country to be recognized in President Obama’s initiative, “America’s Great Outdoors,” launched to develop a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda. Then Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear nominated the Water Trail as one of Kentucky’s two America’s Great Outdoor Projects, according to the Kentucky Riverkeeper brochure.

"The Kentucky River Water Trail is a vital asset to our region because of the outdoor recreation and tourism draw to our great state. People will come from all over to paddle and enjoy the natural beauty of the Kentucky River," Clark said, who is also a Kentucky Riverkeeper board member. "Being able to paddle the entire river with portages will provide economic growth, allow for healthy outdoor activities, and adventure tourism opportunities. This can be a tremendous opportunity for some of our counties that are still looking at bringing in more jobs and needing more of an economic impact."

Clark continued, stating that these recreational opportunities allow a great experiential education opportunity and leads to a place attachment.

"The more recreational opportunities we have in Kentucky, the more we will have a connection with these natural areas and therefore, a greater desire to take care of these areas for future generations," Clark said. "As a state, Kentucky has a tremendous opportunity to continue to grow in the areas of adventure and recreational tourism."

The Kentucky Riverkeepers also have a host of events that take place, such as the recent fundraiser and spring celebration back in March and the upcoming golf scramble in June. For more information, visit https://kyriverkeeper.org.

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.

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