FRANKFORT — A bill that would lead to a system of ATV trails in Eastern Kentucky was approved by a House committee Thursday.
House Bill 173, sponsored by Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, would connect to similar trail systems in West Virginia and south-western Virginia.
Hall said the trails could attract as many as 200,000 people a year to the region. That would spur spending at hotels, restaurants and gas stations in an economically depressed area.
“We think this is the right thing to do for tourism … in these dead and dying counties,” Hall said.
The bill would create a Kentucky Mountain Trail Corporation to oversee and police the system.
Hall said he had the cooperation of 13 counties: Bell, Breathitt, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Mogan, Perry, Pike and Wolfe. He said he would try to add Clay and Leslie counties in a floor amendment later.
Most of the trails would be on old strip-mine land and other land that belongs to large landowners, Hall said. The trails could be more than 2,000 miles long, said Bill Reed, a trail expert that Hall brought to the committee hearing.
The system would be similar to the Hatfield-McCoy trails in West Virginia and the Spearhead Trails in Virginia.
The House Committee on Tourism Development and Energy approved the bill unanimously. Several members, however, said they wanted technical changes to be made later.
State Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, thanked Hall for his “vision,” but said she wanted to make sure the trails corporation was covered by state open meetings and records laws.
Because the people working for the trails corporation would be state employees, the bill will have to go to the Appropriations and Revenue Committee before it goes to the House floor for a vote.
The bill the tourism committee approved was very different from the bill Hall originally filed. That bill would have elevated the Kentucky Recreational Trails Authority to the level of a state agency, and given it power to require that people buy a permit before hiking or riding on state lands.
Hall said he changed the bill because the original would have cost several million dollars in tough economic times.