A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Economic transition continues in Eastern Kentucky through arts and culture with endowment gift

Art and culture will continue to help spur the revitalization of Eastern Kentucky with the help of a new endowment gift that will fund a full-time position to lead the long-running Higher Ground community theater project, housed at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. The endowment, made possible by entrepreneur and philanthropist Brook Smith, will fund an executive director position...

Unemployment rates rise in 75 Kentucky counties during past year; Woodford owns lowest jobless rate

Unemployment rates rose in 75 Kentucky counties between August 2018 and August 2019, fell in 36 and stayed the same in nine counties, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Woodford County recorded the lowest jobless rate in the Commonwealth at 3 percent. It was followed by Boone and Oldham counties, 3.3 percent...

Pew Trusts: Libraries are becoming key to improving public health as hospitals shutter in rural areas

By Sarah Baird Pew Charitable Trusts It’s a sweltering Wednesday morning in Somerset, but at 9 a.m., the Pulaski County Public Library is already bustling. From the community room, the hum of sewing machines echoes into the entryway, as the “pedal pushers” club stitch up their latest creations. An elderly man in sneakers examines a sign advertising a free nutrition workshop for October, which...

Unemployment rates rise in 99 Kentucky counties during past year; Woodford owns lowest jobless rate

Unemployment rates rose in 99 Kentucky counties between July 2018 and July 2019, fell in 15 and stayed the same in six counties, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. Woodford County recorded the lowest jobless rate in the Commonwealth at 3.7 percent. It was followed by Boone County, 3.8 percent; Fayette County,...

Pressure builds for Ky. Blackjewel miners to get back pay, but they pledge to hold out until others also paid

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Pressure is building for Blackjewel miners in eastern Kentucky to get their back wages. But the laid-off miners blocking coal shipments there intend to hold out until former employees of the bankrupt company in several other states are paid as well. Jeff Willig from Harlan County is one of the group that’s been dubbed the “Fab Five” – the...

Research group head, Ky. native says gun violence incidence in state twice as high as New York City

By Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Kentucky tops New York City when it comes to gun fatalities, according to Mark Bryant, a Harlan County native and Lexington resident who leads the Gun Violence Archive. Formed in 2013, the research group compiles gun death information from thousands of sources around the country. Bryant said no one had been keeping accurate statistics on gun deaths. Nearly 64%...

Kentucky by Heart: Withlovefromharlan shifts focus close to home to help victims of Blackjewel failure

By Steve Flairty KyForward Columnist For the people of Harlan County, in the southeastern region of Kentucky, tough economic challenges became tougher recently when the Blackjewel Mining Company filed bankruptcy and left hundreds of miners, many from their county, hung out to dry financially. Most insulting was the fact that workers received paychecks that bounced, leaving many families unable to...

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Ky’s fourth species of Black Bass a mystery limited to Cumberland headwaters

Anglers across Kentucky are intimately familiar with the largemouth, smallmouth and spotted (Kentucky) bass. These three black bass species are found in most of the streams and reservoirs in the state’s nine major river systems — the Tennessee, Cumberland, Tradewater, Green, Salt, Kentucky, Licking, Little Sandy and Big Sandy. But the state’s fourth species of black bass is something of...

Evarts resident Mark Ward catches Kentucky-record largemouth bass (14 pounds, 9.5 ounces)

Evarts resident Mark Ward went fishing after work on Good Friday, April 19, at 6-acre Highsplint Lake in Harlan County with his wife and 9-month-old daughter. It rained all day in Harlan County on Good Friday, but finally cleared up just before he got off work. The water in Highsplint Lake grew a bit murky from the rain, but he saw a nice-sized 4-pound bass in the shallows. Evarts resident Mark Ward...

Pew Trusts: Former Kentucky mining towns embrace change, turn to tourism in wake of coal’s decline

By April Simpson Pew Charitable Trusts The same Main Street winds through the old mountain mining towns of Cumberland, Benham and Lynch, crosses a river and runs alongside a creek. The early 20th-century coal mining boom drew people to this remote corner of southeast Kentucky until coal’s dizzying decline sent them away. Today, Main Street hints at a roaring past and the potential for change. Poor...

Pine Mountain State Resort Park’s Donnie Caldwell honored as Kentucky PGA Professional of the Year

Donnie Caldwell, the PGA professional at Pine Mountain State Resort Park, has been recognized as the golf professional of the year by the Kentucky Section of the PGA. Caldwell has worked at the park for 18 years and became a PGA professional in 2005. He was honored March 4 at the state PGA’s awards presentation in Lexington. Donnie Caldwell“The Kentucky State Parks are very proud of Donnie’s...

Abandoned Mine Lands Pilot Grant of $2.55 million announced for Portal 31 Exhibition Mine

U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Gov. Matt Bevin announced last week a $2.55 million Abandoned Mine Lands Pilot Grant to restore and enhance the Portal 31 Exhibition Mine and create a scenic overlook and parking area at Black Mountain. The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Abandoned Mine Lands awarded the grant to Harlan County...

Appalachian Hospitality Group playing vital role in Harlan County’s future with operation of historic inn

By Joshua Ball For Kentucky Today Travis Warf’s first job was a dishwasher at the Benham Schoolhouse Inn. Some three decades later, he runs the historic inn located in this small community in Harlan County. “I knew there was something special about this place when I worked here as a teenager,” said Warf. “The building is steeped in history and tradition, and is something that, I believe, can...

Grimes Working with county judges to bring solar energy opportunities to Eastern Kentucky

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes last week announced a strategic partnership she has formed with three Eastern Kentucky county judge/executives to explore a solar energy investment in the region. Last year, Grimes began facilitating discussions between a leading solar energy developer and Judge/Executives Scotty Alexander of Perry County, Zach Weinberg of Knott County, and Dan Mosley of Harlan...

Kentucky by Heart: Deaths leave a void and legacy: Mountain Santa, Bob Wagoner each made mark

I was saddened by the recent passing of Mike Howard, aka “Mountain Santa.” He lived at Wallins Creek, in Harlan County, and since the mid-seventies, the wiry-built, talkative man became an icon to thousands in his community by playing Santa Claus, collecting and delivering Christmas gifts to the poor, largely transporting the gifts using pickup trucks. He did that with the support of a legion of...

Debut poetry collection from Rachel Danielle Peterson gives voice to Appalachia

Rachel Danielle Peterson is emerging as a unique, poetic voice of Appalachia. While regional narratives have traditionally been misrepresented or overlooked, she seeks to change that by writing candid work that mixes the compassion characteristic of a native with an unflinching honesty only possible with the critical distance of an ex-patriot. Her lyrical poetry illuminates the things we keep in the...

Kentucky by Heart: Harlan County has plenty to celebrate in the way of good people and talent

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Steve Flairty grew up feeling good about Kentucky. He recalls childhood day trips (and sometimes overnight ones) orchestrated by his father, with the take-off points being in Campbell County. The people and places he encountered then help define his passion about the state now. After teaching 28 years, Steve spends much of his time today writing and reading about...

Harlan Co. communities of Cumberland, Benham, Lynch certified together as 13th Kentucky Trail Town

The three communities of Cumberland, Benham and Lynch in Harlan County have been certified together as the state’s 13th Trail Town that will help promote adventure tourism opportunities in the area, Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Bob Stewart announced. “We’re excited about adding these three eastern Kentucky communities to our Trail Towns,” Stewart said. “The trails, parks and rich...

Hundreds of boxes of records, now digitized, tell story of ‘model’ Eastern Ky. coal camp

Records from Benham Coal Company, one of several Appalachian collections to be digitized by UK Special Collections Research Center, are now available on the digital library ExploreUK. This geologic map of Kentucky, by Kentucky Geological Survey, shows geological features of Kentucky’s unique regions. The carboniferous areas, in gray, are the coalfields of Western and Eastern Kentucky. Click for...

Eastern Kentucky ‘Promise Zone’ designation aimed at accelerating progress in region

An eight-county region of Eastern Kentucky will be among the areas named as “Promise Zones” by the White House, state officials announced. The designation means the federal government will partner with these zones to accelerate public-private partnerships, promote job creation and education opportunities, and improve access to federal grant programs.   “As we know, there is no single solution...