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Perryville to receive Federal Funds?

A stretch of U.S. 150 and has received a recognition that could draw attention and federal dollars to communities in Boyle County.

Community and government representatives gathered at City Hall in Perryville for the official announcement that the section of highway running from Hodgenville to Danville has been dubbed the Lincoln Heritage Highway and designated a National Scenic Byway.

The Scenic Byways program is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Lincoln Heritage Highway will be one of only 151 nationally and six in Kentucky……

A vital thing

The distinction comes with an initial federal grant of $144,000 to be used for marketing and promoting the areas along the route.

Local officials say the program could provide an unprecedented boost for preservation and tourism.

“I don’t think people realize what a vital thing this could be for bringing people to the area,” said Adam Johnson, head of the Danville-Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The kind of cultural traveler we will be able to attract now is so important.”

Amy Potts, field representative for Preservation Kentucky, a state preservation advocacy group, helped get the process of gaining the distinction started. The process, which included forming a committee tasked with making the case for the area, began last year.

Potts said that making the case for the area was not difficult.

“These are such wonderful places and the history speaks for its self,” Potts said.

A much needed engine

The program was funded with $35 million in 2007. Potts said that the new source of federal funds can potentially be used for projects up to 15 miles off the road.

“There have actually been a lot of brick and mortar projects recently. There is a lot of money available for preservation. Byways have been used as a catalyst for preservation in many places. It can be used to promote all of Boyle County.”

Among the possible initiatives include visitor centers, signage, way-finding systems, bike and recreation trails, and developing a web presence.

Vicki Goode, head of Perryville Main Street, said the resources will give Perryville a much needed engine.

“This will bring so many people here because it means national exposure,” Goode said. “A lot of people plan their entire vacations around following these routes. The money available for things like signage allows us to do things we just can’t do as a small group.”

Danville City Commissioner Janet Hamner said inclusion highlights the attributes that make Danville the City of Firsts, but emphasized that work is just beginning.

“The most important thing in my mind is this gives us the opportunity to educate our children about their culture and their history,” Hamner said. “This comes with responsibility. We must be committed to protecting this.”

Protecting and preserving the Merchant’s Row area of downtown Perryville has been an unsettled issue, as disagreements remain between the city and the Perryville Battlefield Preservation Association over who is responsible for upkeep and restoration of the buildings.

Mark Dennen, Executive Director of the Kentucky Heritage Council, said he is hopeful that those disputes will soon be settled with the help of the new funding.

“We are very optimistic that will end very soon and the various groups can come together,” Dennen said. “ It is very important that we find a use for these buildings. This is such a unique and important place and it needs to be the best draw it can be.”

Dennen plans to be back in Perryville next week to survey Merchant’s Row with other staff members from the heritage council and a preservation specialist from the University of Kentucky.

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