By JANIE SLAVEN
WHITLEY CITY —
Plans to develop an ATV park in western McCreary County took a huge leap forward Thursday with the approval of a lease agreement between Fiscal Court and the Shook family.
The meeting had been specially called in order to approve a budget amendment before the June 30 close of the fiscal year. However, the lease vote proved the highlight of the meeting.
The proposed park is comprised of 1,000 contiguous acres along Skullbone Tower Road. The site, owned by Bill and Jean Shook along with their son David, already has 50-75 miles worth of trails.
Magistrates authorized McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens to negotiate for the lease at the regular June meeting.
According to the agreement released following the vote, the county will pay $20,000 annually in a lump some due by July 15 as well as 60 percent of “all gross proceeds” from the Skullbone ATV Recreation Area. The Shooks also retain rights to oil, gas, coal, minerals and timber with a 30-day notice before planned activity.
The county reserves the right to develop other recreation areas and to initiate regulations as authorized by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
The lease is good for one year, after which it will be renewable in five-year increments. It calls for a Master Plan to be developed to operate the park, maintain trails, developing camps and other lodging, etc.
The county now has 60 days to implement rules and regulations as well as a scale of fees. While it had been hoped that a “soft opening” would coincide with the first weekend of July, Deputy Judge Andrew Powell told the court that lease has yet to be reviewed by County Attorney Michele Wilson Jones. County officials are also working to determine how fees may be charged without incurring liability.
While recent laws have been enacted to eliminate liability and encourage adventure tourism, Powell noted that the provisions appear to be based on the sale of permits good for no less than 30 days. However, similar parks around the state offer fees for shorter stays, so clarification is needed.
“We absolve Mr. Shook of liability,” Powell noted. “If there is a change in state law [which brings about liability], it will terminate the agreement.”
If all goes as planned, the ATV park could be a huge financial boon to the local economy. Powell noted that Harlan County makes $150,000 from permit fees alone.
In other business, McCreary County Fiscal Court approved:
• a $35,690 contract with the University of Kentucky for extension services.
• a Municipal Aid Cooperative Contract with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for Whitley City ($16,424), Pine Knot ($24,836) and Stearns ($23,460).
• low or sole bids for drug testing (Industrial Wellness Services), pest control (Plateau), culverts (Lumber King), asphalt (Hinkle Contracting), crushed stone (both bids accepted), emulsion products (Hudson) and fuel (Petroleum Traders).
• hiring Scotty J. Corder as part-time deputy Jailer and Linda Rigney as full-time 911 dispatcher.
The next regular meeting of McCreary County Fiscal Court will be held July 9 at 4:30 p.m.