By MADISON FUGATE
Red River Gorge United hosted a community meeting in efforts to represent the people and the ecosystem of the Red River Gorge on Saturday, February 1st, 2020. Citizens from all over the state and even some out of the state gathered to discuss the potential development and possible resort planned for the Red River Gorge area. Among these citizens, you could find concerned local residents, local business owners, and out of county admirers. Kristen Wiley, owner of Kentucky Reptile Zoo in Slade, Kentucky held most of the discussion before dividing the crowd into groups. Many of those who attended expressed their concerns with stories in how they had raised their families in the area and there were also those who expressed their perspective in how they moved to the more peaceful and untouched area in order to escape their previous lifestyles they considered to be overwhelming. There were several local citizens who spoke out on their concern for distant companies having such an influence in the area and felt it would be best for any development in the area to be by and through the community as an alternative.
Ms. Wiley, front-runner of the discussion, instructed the crowd that it was not her position to see absolutely no growth in the area, however, she did want to make certain that if there were to be any changes in the area that it would be the right growth for the area and any development would be sustainable, slow, good for the environment and not too drastic. This later opened discussion regarding concerns on branding the gorge. Members of Red River Gorge United articulated they had been advised of discussion involving wording that related to branding not only the possible resort but also the Red River Gorge.
The meeting further continued into a discussion for community concerns. Transportation was stressed as a highlight of concern for those attending. Many felt that the Red River Gorge was already at its capacity and there was fear of overcrowding, noise pollution, and the lack of room to expand these narrow routes. Infrastructure was fixated numerous times throughout the discussion regarding the location of wastewater (sewer), garbage, the livelihood of threatened and endangered species, and the arches. The significance of preserving the historic sites on the area included archaeology and a possible cemetery.
Members of Red River Gorge United elucidated their understanding that this enlargement could potentially produce several jobs throughout the community, but they had concerns for the nature of the jobs and their true benefit to the community. According to RRGU, there is no just and true clarification as to who would ultimately benefit from this development and one member made the argument, “You either plan or you get planned for.”
There were many attending who cherish the amenities the gorge already has to offer as is and would like the opportunity to reach out to the community to gather the needs and desires of the people. If you’re interested in reaching out to Red River Gorge United, you may find more information on their Facebook page that also holds a link to their website, (rrgunited.org), that includes a survey for the community.