A group of officials from the City of Berea traveled to Prestonsburg last week to get a glimpse of some of the city’s adventure tourism opportunities.
Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley and Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton met several months ago through the Kentucky League of Cities’ “Mayor to Mayor” program. That program is offered to newly-elected mayors, like Fraley, who started his term in January. It links them with experienced mayors who offer advise about procedures and issues related to local government.
“It gives you an opportunity to have someone that you can call on because there’s the old saying that it’s lonely at the top. And, really, what that means is there’s not a lot of people who have the same experience as you do as a mayor,” Fraley said, talking about the need to seek advice on some mayoral issues. “So, being able to call someone like Mayor Stapleton is really valuable.”
On July 18, Fraley, a relative of Prestonsburg Tourism Commission Member Tim Branham, brought three experienced bikers with him — Berea City Council member Steve Caudill, Tom Moreland, the city’s GIS director and Jason Coomes of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development — to learn about the development of the Sugarcamp Mountain Trail System in Prestonsburg and ride the trails. He said Berea has been working with an organization to help map out a mountain bike trail on property in that city and officials wanted to learn more about the development in Prestonsburg.
“One thing I told Mayor Stapleton is that all over central Kentucky, you hear about how people really like Prestonsburg’s trails,” Fraley said. “None of these guys have been here to ride the trials, but they’ve heard about it, which, really, to me, speaks volumes on how well-known Prestonsburg mountain biking system is throughout central Kentucky, and, I’m sure, Eastern Kentucky and other parts.”
Stapleton shared information about the trail system — explaining that it includes 30 to 50 miles of trails that were built with more than 100,000 volunteer hours on about 400 acres of property owned by the city, Jenny Wiley State Resort Park and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The trails vary in the level of difficulty offered to bikers.
He talked about how the trails increase tourism in the city and boosts the economy, making a point to note that mountain bikers enjoy craft beers. He also told them the trail was designed and marked so that Prestonsburg emergency responders can access areas quickly.
Stapleton also took the group on a short tour of the David rail-to-trail project, which is under development. He said that project is progressing and is planned to eventually connect to the Dawkins Line Trail in Magoffin County, which would create a 74-mile loop for bikers. Berea officials suggested the possibility of creating camping areas for bikers who want to spent two days on the rail-to-trail.
As part of the Mayor to Mayor program, Stapleton toured Berea earlier this year.
“It gives me, definitely, a different look. I’m looking at things from a different angle now,” he said. “When he calls and asks a question, I’m like, well, you know, that’s a pretty big city and I’m having the same problem here in a smaller city. And, you know, they’ve got a lot of different things than we do and a lot of the same things that we do.”
He praised Berea’s tourism development in the arts and history.
“It gives me a great opportunity to learn, and they’re learning from us, with the trails,” Stapleton said. “It just makes a partnership that you can’t, I mean, you can’t put a value on it. You really can’t.”
He also works with the mayor of Somerset in the program. Prestonsburg is also in the Sister Cities program with Beattyville.