Eastern Kentucky Community Teams: Taking Transition into Their Own Hands

Beth Curlin Weber shares the projects funded by the 2010 Flex-E Grants for eastern Kentucky in the proceedings from this past year's Brushy Fork Annual Institute.  Many of the projects listed here are great examples of transition efforts in action.  If you are involved with any of these projects, we would love to hear an update on how they're going!

Twenty-three Community Teams Receive Flex-E-Grants 

by Beth Curlin Weber, Brushy Fork Staff

Twenty-three Eastern Kentucky community teams participated in the 2010 Brushy Fork Annual Institute as part of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Flex-E Grant program. Brushy Fork administers a portion of Flex-E-Grant funds for eastern Kentucky’s economically distressed Appalachian counties, coordinating two cycles of funding per year. The projects below are the result of proposals submitted by 23 of the teams that attended the Institute. The projects represent $216,328 in Flex-E-Grant funds allocated during this cycle.

Leadership Academy Phase II—Bell County

This Leadership Academy, developed for the African-American base in Bell County, will focus on local governing processes and public service. Graduates from phase one of the Academy will assist with six program sessions. In addition, the class will focus on teamwork and involving community resources by working on a project to enhance a city park.

Community Engagement through the Arts—Breathitt County

This project will engage the community in the creation and production of a theatre piece based on the history and heritage of Breathitt County. Outside consultants experienced in community-based theatre will help Breathitt Countians in the process of identifying themes, format, style, and content for the production, which will be based on oral histories.

Olive Hill Sesquicentennial Celebration—Carter County

In 2011, Olive Hill will celebrate its sesquicentennial. To mark this historical event the Olive Hill Historical Society, along with partnering organizations the Olive Hill Main Street Renaissance Committee and the Carter County Public Library, plan to host a festival of events celebrating heritage and showcasing local artisans.

Local Products Outlet—Elliott County

Local artists and other producers in Elliott County have no local outlet for their products besides their homes. The project proposes partnerships with local artists including folk artists, quilters, crafters, musicians, fiber artists and local food producers to create an outlet for their products in the Historical Society’s building. Producers will volunteer to work in lieu of a booth fee.

Estill Micro-Venture Fund—Estill County

The Estill Micro-Venture Fund project will produce a plan which showcases the viability and cost feasibility of a locally-based micro-finance system that could be grown over time to serve all of Eastern Kentucky. The resulting well-researched document about how to design and implement such a fund in Estill County and more broadly in any distressed Appalachian county will be presented to the local business community, as well as interested members of the general population.

Black Bear Mania in the Mountains—Harlan County

The City of Cumberland is the Black Bear Capital of Kentucky. This public art project will place varying statues of black bears throughout the community. Local artists and Harlan County Art Classes will paint bears in different themes. Criteria will be set by a committee chosen from leaders in the community. The bear art will be displayed throughout the Tri-City area and enjoyed by all that live and visit here.

Grow a Gardener—Harlan County

This project will build upon Pine Mountain Settlement School community agriculture projects: Grow Appalachia, Grow Harlan County, and the People’s Garden to teach students and community members about sustainable agriculture. Through Grow A Gardener, community members will learn about leadership opportunities and take leadership roles in community agriculture projects. The group will provide an outlet for marketing local food and will bring attention to unique recipes, seed varieties, food preservation skills, and beautiful gardens in our community. At the end of the term of the project there will be numerous ongoing opportunities to expand the local food system.

Bonnieville Feasibility Study—Hart County

Bonnieville will be working with Robin Kirtly from Barren River Development District to conduct a feasibility study which will supply the city with the statistical information and analytical data needed to stimulate the local economy by soliciting new businesses. This also allows community members to continue their mission to revitalize the community and rebuild the infrastructure by organizing strategic issues.

Enhancing the Happy Top Trail—Lee County

The Happy Top Trail is used by residents for walking and exercise. This project will improve trail accessibility and appeal by adding lights, native trees, shrubs and flowers, accent plants, bird and bat boxes and a bee hive. The group hopes to increase the use of the trail by people who work late but need and want to exercise.

Jenkins River Clean Up and Strategic Plan Initiative—Letcher County

The project will use direct action and information sessions for citizens of Letcher County to build capacity around water quality issues that directly affect them. The project begins direct implementation of an active Three Year Strategic Plan.

Fleming-Neon Economic Development—Letcher County

This project will involve a strategic planner in developing and implementing a process for evaluating community assets. The group will focus on achieving the full potential of community involvement in completing components of the plan.

Feasibility Study for the Letcher County “Monument Park”—Letcher County

The monument park was identified as a project during community meetings on sustainable tourism.

The project will pay tribute, with a life size statue, to Captain Martin Van Buren Bates, a well-known Letcher County citizen. A consultant will design the site to afford the most universal appeal to traffic on HWY 15 and obtain accurate costs for future bids. Letcher County students and the historical society will research and provide documentation Confederacy battle sites in Whitesburg, which will qualify for the vetting process for historical markers.

Screen and Clean Project—Magoffin County

The Screen and Clean Project seeks to establish a norm for youth to be drug screened and found clean!

Students will be screened at school by the Drug Screening Coordinator, at the School Health Clinic by the RN, at the Drug Free Communities office by Magoffin County Health Department staff, and by parents/caretakers at home. Drug screen kits will be provided to all parents to be utilized for the initial screen and to be available as a deterrent for youth drug use/abuse.

South Magoffin Strategic Action for Development—Magoffin County

This project will continue capacity and leadership building in the south Magoffin area. A Strategic Plan Facilitator will provide leadership toward implementation of the previously funded Strategic Plan, working on many of the short-term goals and beginning work on the long-term goals.

Means Community Garden Project—Menifee County

This project will teach families how to plant and raise vegetables in a family garden. Volunteers will build a greenhouse and put in flats for planting. Participating families will sow seeds and water plants at designated times that can be planted to raise their own food.

Tourism Plan and Mini Grant Project—Menifee County

This project’s long-term goal is to improve the quality of life in this economically depressed county through an effective tourism marketing plan. Through a public process, the group will tap local leadership capacity on projects to improve business and entrepreneurship, increase farm productivity through agri-tourism and promote community pride. Community sessions done in partnership with local interest groups will create projects that can be funded with mini-grants.

Community Arts Enrichment—Monroe County

This project will highlight the arts in Monroe County and provide opportunities for Monroe County youth and adults to develop their artistic skills and talents. Drama camps and painting classes will be offered and then the works developed during these learning sessions will be showcased to the community in various formats.

Tile Mosaic in the Center of West Liberty—Morgan County

The purpose of this project is to use public art and creativity as tools for social awareness, community development, and to increase community capacity in Morgan County. A tile mosaic mural, created by students from the county schools, will enhance a boring concrete parking lot retaining wall in the center of West Liberty.

Owsley County Heritage and Tourism Project—Owsley County

The Owsley County Tourism and Heritage Development Project will develop within Owsley County a dedicated tourism and heritage infrastructure that will increase tourism to Owsley County and the region. Our project will facilitate the historic preservation and restoration of the Noble Pioneer Museum, the development of a web site about Owsley County heritage and tourism, and increase the capacity of the local crafters cooperative, Mountain Designs and Crafts.

Community Arts Center—Perry County

This project continues an effort that began in 2009 to develop a community arts center in downtown Hazard. A strong committee of newly emerging leaders is working to move forward with a project that will build our capacity to work together as a much broader community. The project will develop a program that addresses issues identified by diverse groups, focused on the common goal of supporting children and the arts.

Entrepreneurial Education for Business Excellence—Powell County

This project will build community capacity through entrepreneurial support programs. The goal is to strengthen the business climate in the county and the region. The project will provide entrepreneurial education for residents in Powell, Estill, and Lee Counties that want to start a business, and/or to provide educational support for existing entrepreneurs.

Rockcastle County Health & Recreational Complex—Rockcastle County

The Recreational Complex Feasibility Study will furnish the residents usage preferences and needs regarding a health and recreational complex to serve Rockcastle County.

Bandstand & City Park Improvement Project— Wolfe County

This project will use volunteer labor to build a large bandstand with electricity and a sound system in the city park. The project will also include an arched bridge across the creek to connect the bandstand with the park.

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.