Berea College Undergraduate students within the Entrepreneurship for the Public Good Program are have completed the Champions Program that recognizes travel and tourism businesses recovering and reopening from the pandemic along U.S. Bicycles Routes 21 this summer. The Champions Program aligns with the marking of USBR 21 with the Department of Transportation and Friends of the Boone Trace.
This year’s EPG project focuses on communities found along U.S. Bicycles Routes 21 especially those recovering and reopening following the impact of the pandemic. The excellent news about COVID is that adventure tourists are increasing and traveling to less congested areas after the economic downturn and social isolation. However, small businesses have struggled, especially in rural areas. The Champions Program intends to recognize and highlight the small companies that have survived and are returning and reopening their operations. “We have seen that traveler and adventure tourists are viewing business pages or posting photos or reviews online, and we wanted to honor the small business as “Champions” that are returning,” says Dr. Peter H Hackbert, Director of EPG.
Four years ago, EPG student research provided the framework of Kentucky’s newest bike Route 21, which runs from Cleveland, Ohio, to Atlanta, Georgia. As a result, EPG collaborated with Friends of Boone Trace, Inc. to meet the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standards in 2018. Using this information, The Friends of Boone Trace, Inc. applied for and received the designation of Kentucky’s newest national bike route. USBR 21 features the original route opened by Daniel Boone in 1775 — the first road ever into the land west of the Appalachian Mountains, which began the ‘westward movement’ of our country. The 265-mile route connects the Ohio River in Mason County, Kentucky, through the heart of the Bluegrass Region, to the edge of the Cumberland Gap in Tennessee. The addition of this route places Kentucky as 5th in the nation for the number of “biker friendly” miles recognized by AASHTO.
The Champions Program focuses on the business community along USBR 21, including adventure and recreation groups, business owners, chamber of commerce, trail town council, town councils, and elected officials and county government. Dr. Hackbert says, “We desire to activate owners in towns along the route. Because businesspeople are, by nature, busy, the students are reviewing online digital platforms to identify and list the recovering and reopening the small businesses. In addition, the Champions Program intends to publish those recognized firms in their local newspapers, to honor their courage and resilience during this difficult time.
For the past ten years, EPG students researched the Commonwealth’s small rural communities that connect trails and towns to strengthen local economies through adventure tourism. Their research helps communities develop tourist destinations and combines water-based, cycling, hiking, mountain biking, ATV, caving, rocking climbing, equestrian riders, and endurance trail runners as users to trail systems. The summer work guides travelers to trails, food, lodging, campground, retail stores, museums, authentic art and crafts, heritage assets, entertainment, and other services.
Funding for the USBR 21 Wayfinding Signage Project was provided by a $85,000 grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. “By providing easily found signage directions, bicycling tourists are guided to the most interesting places to experience safe, scenic riding along Kentucky’s historic byways. This approach will attract more visitors to explore Kentucky’s towns and engage in other outdoor adventures, while touring,” says Dr. Fox. “We anticipate this designation will bring in more cyclists to the Commonwealth and impact on the economy of the Appalachian Region.”
John M. Fox, MD, President, Friends of Boone Trace, Inc. said, “This bicycle route is a modification of the auto tour using alternate roads to make it safer and more pleasant, passing many historical points of interest along the way.” The USBR 21 route covers 10 Kentucky counties, three certified Kentucky Trail Towns, and numerous towns.