State and local officials gathered at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park on Thursday to formally announce that $1.8 million will be provided to the park for upgrades.
The funding is part of $20 million that the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet announced in February for park projects across the state. The $20 million announced this year was made possible when lawmakers signed a $50 million bond issue for the “Restoring the Finest” program during this year’s General Assembly. It comes in addition to $18 million spent on parks in 2016-2018 in the “Refreshing the Finest” program.
JWSRP will receive new roofs at the lodge and conference center as well as renovations of all lodge rooms, with new furniture and decor.
“It just means that there’s more than we can offer the guests,” Park Manager Julian Slone said.
He said the park hasn’t had a complete renovation of all lodge rooms for about 20 years.
Kentucky State Parks Director of Resort Parks Mike Vito said the state has spent about $350,000 at JWSRP since the improvement program was announced three years ago and the park was also remodeled after a fire destroyed areas of the May Lodge in 2016.
He congratulated Slone, reporting that JWSRP was honored last month at the annual park managers conference for being the “Resort Park of the Year.”
Vito and Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Don Parkinson both emphasized the beauty at JWSRP. Parkinson said he’s been visiting JWSRP for 40 years.
Parkinson said that when Gov. Matt Bevin was elected, the state had $240 million in “deferred maintenance” in state parks, and, in highlighting improvements made, he reported that the state needs an additional $100 million to finish the “Restoring the Finest” program.
“We need to do a whole lot more in the future,” he said.
Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg, and Rep. Ashley Tackett-Laferty, D-Martin, Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton and Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams each talked about how the park benefits the region.
Turner said he has a long history with the park, which started when his grandfather supervised the construction of Dewey Lake and continued when he got his first job as a bus boy at the park. He thanked state officials and Bevin for making the funding available, saying he hopes the state can allocate more funding for JWSRP in the future.
“This money if for much-needed projects here at the park, and I’m so glad that we’re getting it,” he said.
Stapleton said in studying successful towns, he learned that each of them have a hospital, higher education facility and a park. He credited the state park system for partnering with Prestonsburg to for the lease of the Jenny Wiley Amphitheater, the development of the Sugarcamp Mountain Trail system and the swimming pool project, which he said would open next year.
“They are owed a lot of credit for the support they’ve given to this area, with all of the things that we’re doing collectively,” Stapleton said. “The park can’t do it itself. The city can’t do it itself. The Corps can’t do it itself. The Friends of Jenny Wiley, tourism — all of these groups — they can’t do it themselves. Collectively, we can be successful, as you all can see today.”
Williams, who reported he regularly spends time at the park, said state parks are important to communities.
“If you look around the state, these parks play and important part in these communities,” Williams said. “I certainly believe that the quality of life for the folks in Eastern Kentucky, this is going to play a big part in us attracting businesses to Eastern Kentucky.”
Laferty, talking about her own regular visits to JWSRP, said local residents are familiar with the park and what it offers and she emphasized the need to let people outside the region know more about it.
“I’m very, very excited that we have this money coming to help our park system here ... I think everyone locally recognizes the value of this park, and I think that our mission at this point is having everyone else recognize the value of this park. When people outside of the Floyd County realize the beautiful park system that we have here and all that we have to offer, this is such an asset to Floyd County.”
JWSRP was established in 1964 following the creation of the 1,100-acre Dewey Lake. The lodge was added in 1962. Thousands of people visit the park each year for the restaurant, bar, boating, camping and outdoor activities.