Local forum focuses on keeping younger generations in the mountains

Published: Mar. 19, 2019 at 11:44 PM EDT
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City officials in Hazard are not only trying to make sure younger generations want to stay in the mountains, but they are also working to make the city a better place.

Tuesday, officials with the League of Cities held a forum for students and others in the community.

The goal of the forums is to find what people want to see in their hometown and then make those ideas a reality.

At the forum, city leaders say they want kids to go to college, even if it is outside of Eastern Kentucky. The question then is how to get them to come back.

"We want you to come back", said Happy Mobelini, Mayor of the city of Hazard. "And what we want to try to do is interest them in what we need to do to get them to come back."

Students at the forum imagine what it would be like to raise a family in the city where they grew up.

"I have nothing to do here, so why would I bring my children back here when they would have nothing to do here?", asked Brittany Vires, who is a senior at Hazard High School. "So I'm thinking of things for them to do such as arcade and a good movie theatre."

That is where the League of Cities comes in. They are trying to learn what would make people want to come back.

"You have to start somewhere," said Bobbie Bryant, who is the Community Development Adviser with the League of Cities. "So we are trying to help them, not only come up with what the problems are, but we're asking the people we're talking with for solutions and ideas to their problems."

A lot of the ideas brought up at the forum are things like new local shops and restaurants and adventure tourism. All of those ideas cost money, however.

"We can play a part in it as a government, but we have to have people step up and say, 'we want this place to be better than it is'", said Mobelini.

Officials from the League of Cities are helping local leader find the funding necessary to bridge the gap between ideas and action.

"I know that there are sources of income that are on the local level that can often be used as matching funds", said Bryant. "And so, just trying to figure out how to layer a lot of that funding, whether it's grants, government funding, or local financing."

All of this work being done is by people who want to continue having pride in their hometown.

"I think Hazard has the potential to be bigger than Pikeville and anywhere around us because I believe we have the prettiest place, we just need to clean it up and make other people who aren't from here know that it's pretty", said Vires.

Officials from the League of Cities who collected all of the ideas and feedback will present that information to city leaders this week before helping them look for funding sources.