From Trailblazers to Tourism: Mayor Cartmell Sees Opportunity for Kentucky

Story and Photo by Ryan Helfenbein - 10/17/2018

From Trailblazers to Tourism: Mayor Cartmell Sees Opportunity for Kentucky
FRANKFORT, Ky. (October 17, 2018) – For years, the river town of Maysville, Ky. has called to those with an adventurous spirit.

In the 1800s, the grasslands of Mason County lured early pioneers with promises of tobacco, whiskey and hemp. With the invention of the steamboat, Maysville became a gateway community into Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region. Later, Maysville became home to the nation’s first highway in the trans-Appalachian west, which enterprising travelers used to crisscross the old Limestone Trace into the heart of Kentucky.

These historic roadways, once teeming with horses, wagons and early trailblazers, now long lie dormant, but their memory and the persistent longing for adventure is not forgotten. It’s a sentiment Maysville Mayor David Cartmell thinks about often.

Cartmell, who also serves as chairman of the Recreational Trails Authority advisory board, sees a bright future for Maysville – but also for Kentucky trails and economic opportunity throughout the Commonwealth.

“Being Mayor of Maysville has opened my eyes to all the opportunities that our outdoor resources provide in both tourism and economic development. This is not just true for Mason County but all of Kentucky,” Cartmell said. “The growth that we’ve seen in outdoor recreation has made outdoor accommodations necessary. While many go outside for exercise and play, there is also a longing for adventure and to be connected with the outside world.”

Others outside Maysville are also taking note of how outdoor recreation fits into Kentucky’s economic wellbeing.

Last year, Kentucky outdoor recreation accounted for $12.8 billion in consumer spending annually and had direct impact on 120,000 Kentucky jobs, according to a report from the Outdoor Industry Association, a national trade organization.

In Kentucky alone, outdoor recreation has accounted for $3.6 billion in wages while also generating $756 million in state and local revenue. Currently, jobs in outdoor recreation exceed jobs in computer technology, construction, and the finance and insurance industries, nationally.

The Recreational Trails Program, funded by the Federal Highway Administration, has contributed to some of Kentucky’s success by proving communities with grants to develop and maintain walking paths and other recreational trails to enhance quality of life. Since 2010, the program has funded 81 projects in Kentucky, totaling nearly $5.3 million in assistance.

“As the Chair of the RTA Advisory Board, one of my goals is to draw peoples’ attention to the wealth of outdoor activities and resources that are just waiting to be experienced,” Cartmell said. “We are looking at ways to impact trail projects all over Kentucky so that everyone can benefit. As the digital world encroaches on every-day-life, people are also looking for ways to unplug and trails are on the front-end of a growing consumer trend.”

RTA funds are administered by the Department for Local Government, an arm of the Office of the Governor dedicated to supporting local officials and communities.

“It is without question that when we are talking about economic development and opportunity in Kentucky, we need to also look outdoors for the answers. Every corner of Kentucky contains natural wonders and beauties that cannot be justly explored with a point-and-click,” said DLG Commissioner Sandra Dunahoo. “The tourist knows that in order to experience something, you have to be there. We have to do our part in making it accessible to them. In Kentucky, adventure awaits.”

For more information about the Recreational Trails Program, visit