Hurley said there once was a time when he would have to pitch his tent in the campground on Thursday nights before the weekend began so he would be sure to have a spot to camp when Friday evening came. The campground would be full of people on weekends, he said.
“If you didn’t head out on Friday evening as soon as you got off work, you didn’t get a spot (to camp),” Hurley said.
Those days of a full Gays Creek campground have been a thing of the recent past since the Army Corps of Engineers shut the site down over 20 years ago.
The Perry County Fiscal Court hopes to change this, though, as they broke ground on Monday, October 25 for a new camping and RV facility at the old site of the Gays Creek campground.
“The Fiscal Court stood up and said, ‘We want to take that over and make something happen,’” Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble said.
Now, over two years after first picking up the task of rebuilding the campground, the Court’s dream of finally seeing Gays Creeks campground rebuilt is almost complete.
Since the area is owned by the Corps of Engineers, Noble said the Court must wait for the Corps to approve permits in order for construction to begin.
Everything else though, including brown bat studies of the trees and archeological studies of the land have been completed and Noble said construction can begin as soon as the permits from the Corps are received, which should be sometime on Thursday, October 28. The new facilities will be built in about 10 to 12 weeks.
Those facilities will boast new handicap accessible restrooms, a primitive camping area, 12 RV lots with all necessary hook-ups and a waste dumping station, 22 miles of horseback riding trails with stables for the horses and two new boat ramps. Noble said the cost for the whole project was around $400,000 and will be funded with adventure tourism money, which the Court was given thanks to help from the central representative from adventure tourism and Daniel Mongiardo, the lieutenant governor. The project was also coordinated with Hazard-Perry County Tourism, Noble said.
“It’ll be nice when we get it done,” Noble said. “It’s going to be a wonderful project.”
Noble added that in the future the Court hopes to be able to build a country store and possibly a laundry mat close to the campground for campers to use off of the Corps’ property. He also said he would like to be able to build some sort of barge across the lake at the access point near the Gays Creek campground where people could possibly drive ATVs across the lake and connect to ATV trails which already exist in Saul.
Hurley added that the campground already in existence below the dam allows people to only see a small portion of the lake, but the Gays Creek campground will allow people to see more of the lake.
“They’ll be able to go up to the lake and see how pretty the lake really is,” Hurley said.
Noble said the campground would also improve economy in the area because having a new campground close to Buckhorn Lake will make people want to come into the area.
“I think it’ll bring a lot of tourism in,” Noble said.
Pat Wooton, Congressman Hal Rogers’ field representative, was on hand for the groundbreaking and said Hal Rogers fully supported the fiscal court’s decision to rebuild the campground.
“Hal Rogers supports tourism and salutes the fiscal court and the judge for taking on this project and trying to take what was once a booming campground and return it back to what it once was,” Wooton said.
Perhaps more than anything, though, all the officials involved with making the Gays Creek campground improvements want the area to be returned to the days when Hurley’s children made memories camping there.
“This used to be a booming place,” Janet Smith, with Kentucky Farm Bureau said. “And that’s what we want: we want people coming in here.”