HAZARD – Though at one time Hazard’s Main Street served as the city’s main economic and social artery, in past years the city has expanded its borders and, as a result, its economic base. But there remains potential in Hazard’s downtown, said Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman, who announced this month a project designed to enhance Main Street.
For years the picnic shelter next to City Hall, built more than three decades ago during the first term of the late Mayor Bill Gorman, along with the adjacent amphitheater, constructed during the term of former Mayor Bill Morton, have been a mainstay to downtown. But like most things eventually will, the shelter’s age is showing.
This month, Mayor Nan Gorman announced that planning for a project is ongoing that will see the current shelter replaced and the overall area revamped for public use. That’s where some grant funds and a monetary gift from Kentucky River Properties will come into play.
Though the city won’t expend any money from its general fund on the project, Gorman noted, city employees will complete the work, beginning with replacing the shelter’s existing concrete foundation and then erecting a metal shelter. The project is being designed by architect Dan Roll, who also serves as the city’s director of zoning.
Gorman said that while money is tight in city government at present, this project will add a nice park element to the city’s landscape beside City Hall.
“We can’t do all the things we want to do, but it will only be the beginning of what we hope will be kind of a park in here like it already is,” Gorman said.
The shelter and amphitheater have hosted many public events over the years, from 4th of July fish fries to concerts during the annual Black Gold Festival each fall. Mayor Gorman noted that she wants that to continue, adding that she hopes the city will be able to eventually focus on the amphitheater as well.
“The area has really been used, and we’re going to try to keep it being used, and we want to improve it,” Gorman said.
This park project is the city’s contribution to ongoing efforts by different local groups aimed at reviving Hazard’s downtown area. Organizations like the Community Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky and the Pathfinders of Perry County are working on areas of improvement, and even this shelter project is being designed in a way that it can be upgraded once more money becomes available to the city.
“We’re working in cooperation with Pathfinders and CHICKS, and other private citizens who want to help make Main Street more attractive, and try to being people in to the center of the city,” Gorman said. “I think it’s very worthwhile.”
In addition to the shelter and foundation work, Gorman hopes to accent the Kentucky River’s north fork flowing behind City Hall. She described the river as the city’s gift and the reason Hazard was settled in this area.
“The river is very important,” she said. “It’s where all of our water comes from. I just want to accent it, and I want people to start noticing the river.”
No time frame for the project has been announced as of yet.