Ballard Tourism Council says tourism will boost area economy

The Ballard Bottoms Tourism Council worked for months developing and promoting river bottoms tourism. They say the wetlands are an asset to the region —an asset they need now more than ever.

That’s because the Verso paper mill in Wickliffe announced that, starting Nov. 1, it would idle indefinitely. The mill is the county’s No. 1 employer, and the company says 300 hourly employees will lose their jobs. The council says river bottoms tourism could offset these losses.

Tourism areas take time to become popular, but Bottoms Tourism Council President Matt Haney says the river bottoms are making progress.

"Our little, small towns are going to be hurting, even more so. It’s important, more than ever, in working with fish and wildlife," Haney says.

Haney says part of the bottoms’ promise comes from collaborating with the state through Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. The two groups have worked together on several projects so far. The first project was bringing hundreds of people bidding for a duck hunting blind for the Boatwright Management area to Barlow.

Haney says it will help increase commerce for their town, especially because 70 to 80 percent of people who spend time at the river bottoms do so because of waterfowl hunting.

If they didn’t see potential in the tourism council and the bottoms, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Regional Coordinator Tony Black says they wouldn’t waste their resources.

"It’s gotten us back in communication with the community, some of the local government," Black says.

Black says the bottoms tourism is starting to take off but, like with any new project, it will take some more time.

The blind draws run from the first week of December to the end of January, but not on Mondays or Tuesdays.

Ballard County Judge Executive Vickie Viniard says the county supports the tourism council. She says their area needs something like this, but says they haven’t thrown any money behind the effort yet.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife says about 20,000 acres are dedicated to waterfowl hunting in the state.

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