The Berea City Council heard two updates from leaders in the city’s two largest tourist attractions — their arts and crafts and the Pinnacles trail at their Tuesday meeting.
Berea College Professor Louisa Summers and two research assistants Gage Cousineau and Osman Bin Aamir Abu Nasr gave a 2020-2021 summer update for the trail systems and said approximately 105,752 hikers visited the Pinnacles in that time — including the two months the outdoor recreation area was closed for the pandemic.
According to their research, 63% of those who visit the Pinnacles come in a group, which was higher than the previous four years they have recorded data at the trails.
In addition, 16% of visitors are over the age of 55.
Summers helped give an economic update to the council of people who spent money in Berea before or after spending time on the trails.
She said several big takeaways from this part of the study, was that more visitors were coming from outside of Berea.
Summers said more than half of visitors are from surrounding counties. Forty percent of visitors come from Richmond and Lexington.
“There are more hikers coming from other areas including Jackson, Garrard and Lincoln Counties,” Summer said.
Because of this, expenditures of visitors in the city are rising despite 51% of people who reported spending nothing.
However, the average amount of people who were spending money was $36, up from $20 in previous years.
In total, there was an overall addition of $1,297,000 to economic development with travelers over the last 12 months. This, the group said, was a 112.4% increase expected in 2021.
In efforts to ramp up more visitors to the Pinnacles and trail systems, the group presented several more ideas to help give out more information, and entice others to spend more money.
Some of these include working charging ports, water fountains, trail maps, having the college's forestry building to function as an Appalachian Heritage Institute, and picnic tables.
Many members thanked Summers and her team for their work, and expressed it will help the city make better decisions regarding the trail systems.
“I always appreciate information because it gives numbers to talk about and think about before we need to make a decision,” said Council member Steve Caudill.
Following Summers and her team, Berea Tourism and Development Director Donna Angel gave an update regarding the Berea Craft Festival, which broke records all three days the event took place last weekend.
At the first day on Friday, 128 people lined up before the gates opened to get inside.
“It was continuous all day, we did not stop,” Angel said. “We set records all weekend.”
On Friday alone, more than 3,000 people attended the festival, which was double previous year total attendees. Saturday and Sunday, both followed suit.
In addition, each vendor sold out of their wares, or were incredibly low after closing the three-day event.
From a tourism perspective, Angel and her staff were able to count 32 out-of-state licenses in the parking lot who had come to Berea to enjoy arts and crafts.
“It is outstanding to have that many people here,” she said. “If I could say anything, we had the best festival ever. The dollars, the visitors and the compliments, it was great to see locals come out and the artwork the craft makers had created were top notch.”
Angel argued the success of this festival helped the city secure it’s brand as the Folk Arts and Crafts capital of Kentucky.
“That brand is a legend, and it does live on. Our town is well known, well loved, and well respected for the arts and crafts here,” she concluded.
• Three women were introduced by Angel as new members of the city’s tourism department. Nancy Connelly was introduced as the new operations manager. In addition, Liz Todd was hired as the new program manager, and Sara Stillwell returned to Berea as their new media manager.
• City Administrator David Gregory had his last administrator’s report at a city council meeting before his official retirement effective on July 30.
• The first reading of a zone change at 171 Herndon Lane was approved from R1 (single family residential) to A1 (agriculture). Amanda Haney, director of planning and codes said the tract was sloping and not appropriate for the single family residential. A vote will be taken at the next city council meeting to approve the change.
• A proclamation was read aloud by the mayor recognizing the Madison County Sports Hall of Fame to honor past, present and future Madison County residents.
• A bid was received from the Allen Co. of Lexington for repairs and maintenance on various streets in the amount of $187,773.04.
• Three bids were received for a wastewater treatment process chemicals which included companies out of Georgia, Lexington, and Ohio.
• A change order was approved by the city council for the Berea Folk Center chinking and staining in more than $27,392.50. Former City Administrator David Gregory said the workers underestimated needs for the project, used more material than thought when running into unexpected things, and materials were higher priced during the COVID-19 months.
• A second reading was approved regarding updated and authorized positions and assigned grades of pay for different departments. In administration, there are no grades set for the city administrator, their assistant, or the HRC administrative assistant. Several other changes are drafted in other departments such as removing entire positions or having no determined pay grade. Some departments with changes include Business and Tourism Development, Fire, Parks and Recreation and Police.
• An approved second reading was given regarding Ordinance 21-2021 which amending the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 Salary Scale and the revised scale would replace the former one in its entirety.
The next Berea City Council meeting is scheduled for August 3 at 6:30 p.m.