The Red River Gorge is one of the crown jewels of Kentucky. It is an area that belongs not only to Kentuckians, but to all Americans, and the thousands upon thousands of those who visit the Red River Gorge each year, to include thousands of foreign visitors who travel to the Red River Gorge to enjoy rock climbing at what is known as the third best rock climbing area in the world.
For anyone who has ever traveled the mountain parkway, one of the most breathtaking and majestic views as you travel east is that first glimpse of the entranceway to the Red River Gorge, a canyon system on the Red River. Regardless of the season, the view is breathtaking as the mountains begin their skyward journey, a view that for generations has remained mostly unblemished.
For the thousands who visit the Red River Gorge, the rhetorical question which must be asked is how long will that breathtaking view remain once construction begins for the recently announced plans to build a destination resort, a destination resort which will change the breathtaking view and beauty of the Red River Gorge forever.
What is so striking about the plans for this destination resort is that for months, the group behind plans to create this destination resort, a group that apparently had the support of the county judge executives from Wolfe, Powell, Menifee and Lee counties, has remained under the radar until it was recently announced that plans were underway to create a master plan for a resort at the Red River Gorge.
Now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, those who have quietly been behind the destination resort are scrambling to explain how wonderful this destination resort will be for those who live in the area. According to a recent article in the Lexington-Herald Leader by Linda Blackford, “[t]he Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is behind the still-developing plans for the 900 -acre project, complete with convention space, private cabins, a water feature, a themed village, and even some gambling options.”
Not surprisingly, now that those planning the destination resort have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, they have announced that they will be holding public meetings in order to solicit public feedback. With that said, one is left to ask the rhetorical question as to the reasons the county judge executives involved in the project have not already held public meetings long before this surprise announcement. One is left to wonder just exactly who the county judge executives were elected to serve, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce or were they elected to serve the citizens of Wolfe, Powell, Menifee and Lee counties. To quote from that old biblical passage, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Maybe, just maybe, it is time for the voters of Wolfe, Powell, Menifee and Lee counties to demand that their county judge executives choose who they want to serve, either them or the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Next, one of the most important questions which has yet to be answered by anyone involved in this project is whether anyone has conducted an environmental impact study to determine whether this destination resort will destroy the natural habitat of several endangered species including the gray bat, the Indiana bat, the Virginia big-eared bat or the Northern long-eared bat which are native to the Red River Gorge. Or for that matter, one is also left to wonder if those involved in the project have conducted an environmental impact study to determine whether this destination resort will impact the Red River Canyon waterway or possibly destroy the habit of the snuffbox mussel or the Kentucky arrow darter, endangered species which are also native to this habitat.
Of course, why would anyone want to preserve the beauty of the Red River Gorge; why would anyone want to preserve the natural habitat of several endangered species; why would anyone want to stand in the way of replacing the breathtaking and majestic views of the mountains with neon signs and billboards which will light up the night sky with a few words which might read. “Welcome to the Gateway to Eastern Kentucky and the Red River Gorge Gambling Casino.” The answer is simple, the reason to preserve the beauty of the Red River Gorge is that it belongs to everyone, not simply to those who have proposed the destination resort.
Over the past few days, the words of Joni Mitchell’s song from the 1970’s came to mind, a song written to bring awareness to environmental concerns of the times, the opening words which speak to the plans for the destination resort planned for the Red River Gorge, words which read,
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
In the end, everyone needs to ask themselves a final rhetorical question is whether the beauty of the Red River Gorge should be preserved for all generations or should the Red River Gorge be changed forever and replaced with a destination resort which will forever destroy the beauty of the Red River Gorge. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to consider another destination location, a destination location which would be welcomed, a destination location which could offer all that is being planned for the Red River Gorge, yet a destination which will not destroy the natural beauty and breathtaking views of the Red River Gorge.