Whitesburg, KY – The East Kentucky (EKY) Heritage Foundation Inc. received $3.5 million in funding from the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Economic & Community Development Pilot Program.
The announcement of the award was made last week by U.S. Representative Harold “Hal” Rogers and Governor Matt Bevin at the 2019 Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Summit hosted in Pikeville at the Appalachian Wireless Arena.
Funding allocated to the Foundation is for the design and development of Thunder Mountain, a world-class, sport shooting and archery resort park in Letcher County.
“What better way to utilize AML funding than to repurpose previously mined land and create a one-of-a-kind resort for visitors and locals to enjoy as well as boost the region’s economy,” said EKY Heritage Foundation Founder and Letcher County Tourism Commission Chairman Missy Matthews. “We wanted to come up with an idea that didn’t compete or duplicate other local tourist attractions but instead accentuates and highlights everything our region has to offer, while staying true to our Eastern Kentucky heritage.”
Once completed, Thunder Mountain will be the only sport shooting resort east of I-75 and south of I-64 and will attract Olympic style tournaments as well as state, regional and national competitions for both archery and firearms.
In addition to competition-ready sport shooting and firing ranges, the resort will also include a large amphitheater, treehouse cabin rentals, RV hookups with bath house accessibility, paint ball course, an obstacle course and casting ponds.
Angie Hatton, Letcher and Pike County state representative and EKY Heritage Foundation board member, said Thunder Mountain Resort will draw tourists from all over the nation into Letcher County.
“Our beautiful mountains are the perfect backdrop for sport shooting and outdoor recreation,” said Hatton. “On behalf of the Foundation, I would like to send a special thank you to the other elected officials who wrote a letter in support of this project, including State Representative Chris Fugate, State Representative John C. Blanton, State Senator Johnny Ray Turner, State Senator Phillip Wheeler and Pike County Judge/Executive Ray S. Jones II. This resort really is a facility that will benefit all of Eastern Kentucky as its positive economic impact will be seen and felt by the surrounding counties that make up our region.”
The resort will be easily accessible and will sit on multiple acres of flat land, hillsides and valleys on the old Marlowe coal site on Sandlick Creek in Letcher County, located less than a mile from Whitesburg.
Attracting a wide variety of tourists, it is anticipated Thunder Mountain could bring more than 40,000 people to Letcher County per year. The increase in visitors will in turn have a huge impact on the local economy, helping existing businesses thrive and opening the door for new entrepreneurs who want to invest locally.
“Today is a great day for Letcher County and all of Eastern Kentucky,” said Letcher County Judge/Executive Terry Adams. “The Thunder Mountain Resort will forever change the tourism industry for our area and catapult Letcher County into a true tourist destination. This resort will prove to be an economic driver, with job growth expanding far outside the boundaries of the resort, spanning throughout the region to our tourism and hospitality industries.”
Thunder Mountain was one of 20 economic development projects chosen by the AML Pilot Program to receive funding. Other counties receiving grants included Pike, Floyd, Leslie, Knott, Perry, Morgan, Martin, Johnson, Lee, Clay, Harlan and Breathitt, totaling more than $34 Million to the Eastern Kentucky region.
A press conference will be held in downtown Whitesburg during the week of the Mountain Heritage Festival to share more information and present visual designs of the project.