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UK works with county officials, other agencies to help preserve East Kentucky's Laurel Creek area

UK works with county officials, other agencies to help preserve East Kentucky's Laurel Creek area

UK works with county officials, other agencies to help preserve East Kentucky's Laurel Creek area

UK county Extension agent Larry Rogers reached into the cool flowing water of Elliott County's Laurel Creek and brought up a rock. He turned the rock over and pointed to a tiny creature attached to the bottom side.

"That's a mayfly nymph. It's only found in water that's pure and uncontaminated, like Laurel Creek," Rogers said. "Our citizens and county officials here intend to keep this creek and gorge area clean and pure like this for many years to come, and I'm proud that Extension is a part of that effort."

A few nights before, Rogers and fellow Extension agent Gwenda Adkins, along with UK Extension tourism specialist Allan Worms, appeared at the Elliott County fiscal court meeting to request passage of a special resolution. The resolution would approve pursuing the purchase of land along a 6-mile stretch of Laurel Creek to preserve it for tourism and education. The court passed the resolution unanimously.

"This Laurel Creek area is one of the purest areas I've seen in Kentucky," said Worms. "It's flora and fauna are highly unusual and educational. We've brought students and scientists here from Kentucky and neighboring states who are excited about what they find here. It's a rich opportunity and a wonderful example of community cooperation."

"People are coming together on this," said David Brickey, president of Elliott County's chamber of commerce. "UK and a lot of different government agencies have fallen behind this gorge project and it's definitely going to benefit the area."

"This is good for our county because there are very few jobs here," said Flo Whitley, Extension volunteer leader. "Great things are going to start happening in this area because tourism helps bring money into the county."

According to Rogers and Adkins, economic development is a major focus of the UK Cooperative Extension Service, along with agriculture, 4-H youth, and home economics programs. Because they live in the county where they work, Extension agents are in a unique position to educate, facilitate, and bring people together.

"We can cross lines and draw expertise from many different agencies and different sources," Rogers said. "We know where to go at the university for help, and our resources are bigger than just the College of Agriculture. If I have a question about geology or chemistry or biology, I can call experts in those departments at UK and pass that information along to people who need it here in the county."

"We're educators, but we're also learners because we have to learn what our county needs are," said Adkins. "As agents, we're given the freedom to work with the total population to help meet those needs, whether it be tourism or education or welfare reform or many other areas and issues."

As part of the Laurel Gorge project, Extension is working closely with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Elliott County leaders hope that land beneath a new bridge being built on Corps-owned property near where the Laurel Creek joins the Little Sandy will be turned into a recreation and access area.

"We endorse it, and if flood control is maintained we are one hundred percent behind it," said Wayne Rigor, resource manager for the Corps of Engineers. "I compliment the Extension Service -- they have had a lot of foresight on this and have moved ahead in the right way and in a timely manner."

"Extension has been happy to help build coalitions and trust among the different public agencies, whether from our own county or from neighboring counties," said Adkins. "Building the economic future for our community is one of our main priorities to give our youth something to look forward to in the future, rather than leaving the county."

"We've got different industries coming in, and we're going to get different people moving in, and if we can get tourism going hand-in-hand with that then positive things are going to happen," said Brickey.

Contact Information

Scovell Hall Lexington, KY 40546-0064