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Together, Kentucky shines

2019 Beautify the Bluegrass community projects

A few of the volunteers who helped save Camp KYSOC. Photos: Steven Grant Smith Photography
A few of volunteers who helped save Camp KYSOC. Photos: Steven Grant Smith Photography
A few of the volunteers who helped save Camp KYSOC. Photos: Steven Grant Smith Photography
Franzini Brothers hike Loop Trail. Photo: Carolyn Franzini
West Kentucky RECC employees worked to paint and prepare ballpark. Photo: Georgann Lookofsky

More than 400 volunteers, from school children to seniors, and people from all across the United States, came together to “Save the Soc.”

The Carroll County Camp KYSOC, a former Easter Seals Society (now Easterseals) facility that served special needs children, had fallen into disrepair. It holds special memories for Kentuckians and community members who had camped there, so the community rallied.

“We have a vision that one day, it will be able to be used as a camp for many different groups,” says Gerda Wise, with Carroll County Friends of Camp KYSOC.

Carroll County’s KYSOC rehabilitation project is the Governor’s Award winner in this year’s Beautify the Bluegrass, which is a nonpartisan initiative between Gov. Matt Bevin’s office and Kentucky Living. Its purpose is to encourage Kentuckians to work together to repair, enhance or beautify an area in their community.

“This really has taken on a life of its own in all the right ways. It is so hard to pick the winner. … I wish we could honor every one of you with an award,” says Bevin.

From 28 submissions, the governor selected three winners from finalists voted online by Kentucky Living readers and the public.

Winners were announced on August 22 at Kentucky Living’s 2019 Best in Kentucky awards at the Kentucky State Fair.

Bevin and Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton will host a barbecue lunch at the winning location for up to 200 to celebrate with everyone who helped make the winning Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award project possible.

Thank you to all the volunteers who formed teams and worked many hours on all the beautification projects.

“Every one of you, who have done what you’ve done to beautify the Bluegrass across the entire commonwealth, thank you,” Bevin says. “Together, we are Kentucky.”

Camp KYSOC, Carroll County

Governor’s Award

“Camp KYSOC has been such an important part of Carroll County for nearly 60 years that we could not let this place disappear and be taken out of our hands,” says Wise. The county budget did not have the funds to restore it, she says, so volunteers worked to make the camp functional again.

After years of disrepair and neglect, a group of volunteers formed a board to “Save the Soc.” Since November 2018, teams of volunteers have worked to rehabilitate the grounds at Camp KYSOC.

A few of the 400 volunteers who helped save Camp KYSOC. Brad Becraft works on one of the cabins. Photo: Steven Grant Smith Photography

Volunteers held three major clean-up days there, in addition to the ongoing projects. Other rehab efforts included cutting down and cleaning up dangerous trees, especially dead ash trees.

The dilapidated fishing bridge is now fully accessible for people with disabilities, and they can fish from either side. “This bridge, it is solid steel and it is not going nowhere, and it’s a wonderful addition to our wonderful camp,” says Wise.

Industries that sent volunteers included North American Stainless, Dorman Products and Walmart. Dow Chemical donated safety equipment for the volunteers and a flagpole.

Camp KYSOC offers accessible, paved walking trails, and hiking, with facilities and a lake for fishing and boating, and enjoying wildlife and nature.

Wise says her group does not want Camp KYSOC to just to be for people in Carroll County. “We want it to be for people from everywhere. We want to make it a place that all people can use throughout the entire year.”

Rodburn Hollow Park, Morehead

Commonwealth’s Award

At Rodburn Hollow, a new flip signs educate visitors. Photo: Betty Cutts

With the recent formation of the Friends of Rodburn Hollow Park, the overall goal became to promote, preserve and protect the park. Besides the physical fitness aspects of hiking, other goals were to get children outdoors and to educate them about nature.

Approximately 200 volunteers worked this year to clean, clear, build, replace and improve the Morehead park. Three major cleanup projects involved removal of downed trees, restoration of footbridges, debris removal, trail improvements, painting and power washing. 

“We established 12 flip signs, which are signs that flip up so you can read about box turtles, pileated woodpeckers and other organisms,” says Fred Howes, a volunteer and of Friends of Rodburn member. “We installed two tree identification tables … along with two welcome signs, a park history sign and one with the geology of the park.”

Morehead Tourism Executive Director Joy Brown says, “People can take advantage of a peaceful oasis to picnic, explore, play in the creek, learn and exercise. The possibilities for this park are endless.”

The park now hosts events with the Rowan County 4-H, the City of Morehead Parks and Recreation Day Camp attendees.

West Kentucky RECC, Mayfield

Cooperative Award

Families spent their summers playing ball at the Kirksey ballpark in Calloway County. Over the years, teams left for newer facilities and the park became overgrown and run-down. The park will now be home to the Murray Rockets Special Olympics teams.

Special Olympics athlete Robbie Britton tries out the new Kirkskey ballpark. Photo: Chaney Willett

“When we learned that Special Olympics would be using the park, we wanted to help,” says West Kentucky RECC President & CEO David Smart. 

West Kentucky RECC worked with Special Olympics and brought in partners—TVA for technical expertise and Swift Environmental for their its use of heavy equipment. 

About 30 West Kentucky RECC employee volunteers cleared old fencing to make way for a soccer and flag football field. The fence around the softball field was repaired and topped with a bright yellow crown. Dugouts were renovated, the backstop painted, and 15 tons of old fencing, blocks and debris hauled away. The entire park was mowed and trimmed, and the field was dragged and readied for play.

“We are so extremely grateful to WKRECC for their unsolicited and quick response to our need. They have the resources and skills to help us make our dreams for this field a reality,” says Laura Miller, West Regional director for Special Olympics Kentucky. “Our athletes will make this park a wonderful place for the community to enjoy. 

Concern for the community

Of the seven cooperative principles, concern for community may be the one that Kentucky’s 26 electric co-ops and their employees value the most. Electric co-ops are an integral part of the communities they serve. Here are some of the Beautify the Bluegrass local co-op projects from around the state and in your community:

Big Rivers Electric Corporation, Owensboro The inspiration for a postcard-themed mural came from Webster County’s ongoing GrowWebCo initiative. The collaborative project involved Sebree resident Mark Moser, who donated his corner downtown lot to the city, and Connie Skinner, who allowed the side of her nurse practitioner’s office to be painted. The long-term plan is to turn the lot into a pocket park.
Jackson Energy Cooperative, McKee Jackson Energy’s 23 volunteers worked alongside Vitalize Mount Vernon Director Lynn Tatum and City of Mount Vernon employees. This double-sided welcome sign is seen by travelers heading to Lake Cumberland. Old landscaping was uprooted and existing shrubs and trees were trimmed. Volunteers laid yards of landscaping fabric, added new decorative rock, shoveled a dump-truck load of mulch and planted dozens of colorful flowers, plus new flags.
Jackson Purchase Energy Corporation, Paducah The Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge is the only national wildlife refuge located solely in the Bluegrass State. Without a visitor’s center on the north end of the refuge, people drive by the refuge without realizing it is a public access area they can enjoy. Jackson Purchase Energy learned that it could help by constructing and setting signs in two locations. Volunteers also cleaned landscaping beds at the Benton office.
Kenergy Corp., Owensboro/Henderson Kenergy employees volunteered for a one-day project to clean up Panther Creek Park, Owensboro. In partnership with Daviess County Parks and Recreation, the project focused on overall beautification of the park in preparation for summer. Employees weeded, cleaned flower beds and planted flowers at the entrance of the park, mulched gazebo areas, and re-homed several bushes.
Big Sandy RECC, Paintsville Big Sandy RECC volunteers cleaned and painted the sign at the Middle Creek National Battlefield in Floyd County. The goal was to improve and preserve this piece of local history, as it is the site of the largest and most significant Civil War battle fought in eastern Kentucky, on January 10, 1862. Volunteers also cut grass, and planted trees and pollinator-attracting plants at the entrance island, topping it off with mulch.
Shelby Energy Cooperative, Shelbyville Shelby Energy employee volunteers painted the walls of the pavilion at the Trimble County Park, where fair events and other concerts take place throughout the year take place. They painted all the trash barrels one color, and also ensured they were free of rust and dirt. Volunteers then went to Trimble County’s courthouse, where they pulled weeds, planted flowers, and spread mulch around the flower beds.
Fleming-Mason Energy Cooperative, Flemingsburg Fleming-Mason Energy’s project was the 350-acre North Central 4-H Camp, near Carlisle, which serves 28 Kentucky counties and accommodates 478 people. Over 20 employees, family members and friends weeded flower beds, spread mulch and cleaned the fire pit. Volunteers installed six clotheslines at cabins and dug holes for the remaining six to be completed at a later date. Prior to this, campers strung laundry on lines stretched between trees.
South Kentucky RECC, Somerset The 2019 Pulaski County Clean Sweep took place in April with a total of 2,407 hours and 1,261 volunteers, including South Kentucky RECC. Volunteers picked up 1,928 bags of litter along U.S. Highway 27 on April 18. Areas that had been choked with debris during spring flooding were cleaned, to ensure that Lake Cumberland was “open for business” to thousands of summer visitors. For local residents, the project provided cleaner scenery and more accessible recreation sites.

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