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Off-roaders leaving marked trails causing problems in Red River Gorge area

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Posted at 6:34 PM, Jul 09, 2024

POWELL CO., Ky. (LEX 18) — According to Pete Fingerson, July and October bring the most activity in the Red River Gorge area. Fingerson works as the executive director for the Powell County Tourism Commission, and he moved to nearby Wolfe County five years ago.

“It’s meant so much to me,” Fingerson said of the nature in the area. “It meant so much that my wife and I decided to move our roots here. We came here with some friends about a decade ago, and it was a love at first sight. The hiking and the backpacking, the local culture here just can’t be beat.”

Of the attractions around the gorge, off-roading has become an increasingly popular – and problematic – pastime.

“Since we do offer such a wide variety of activities here, off-roading is definitely one of those,” Fingerson said, “but it is an activity that comes naturally with a lot more impact than just your feet on the ground hiking.”

The biggest impact, especially in recent weeks, has come from more and more drivers getting off the established trails and driving onto unmarked and even private property. Leaving the marked trails presents a danger, especially around the Red River Gorge.

“The gorge and this whole area,” explained Fingerson, “it’s basically a big canyon system, so there are cliffs everywhere. So you could be 10 foot from a cliff and you might not even know it because of the foliage.”

According to Wolfe County Search and Rescue on Facebook, a situation like that occurred just last weekend. A group drove onto private property and got themselves stuck for more than 10 hours.

Along with driving into potentially dangerous areas, Fingerson shared a few other reasons not to go off-roading through unmarked territories.

“Not only is it just a private property boundary that’s disrespectful to the property owners, it’s also detrimental to the local flora and fauna.”

“The white-haired goldenrod for example is literally only found here in the entire world. So there are different things like that that could be impacted by people not knowing where they are and accidentally going somewhere they’re not supposed to.”

The T.R.E.A.D Lightly principles provide a guide for safe travel during any off-roading activity. You can learn more about these principles here.