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Unlocking locks could spur visitors to Owen

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By Molly Haines

Owen County could gain a new tourism attraction if the Kentucky River Authority opens locks and dams one through four.

Owen County Judge-Executive Carolyn Keith said she attended a meeting in 2009 of surrounding counties in support of opening the locks and dams.

Keith said the Kentucky River Authority is considering opening the locks from the Ohio River to Frankfort.

A river lock is a device used for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water or different levels on river and canal waterways.

Director of the Kentucky River Authority Stephen Reeder said the four locks and dams are all in need of repairs.

“They’re dangerous,” Reeder said. “A couple of them just won’t operate. Locks one, two and three would need minor repairs but really they all need about $6 million worth of repairs.”

Lock three, which is located off Point of Rock Road, is already receiving repairs due to Kentucky American Water projects, Keith said.

“We would have to work with the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers,” Keith said. “They would have to do an evaluation of the lock and dam. The plan is to have them come in and supervise the work. They are highly trained and Mr. (Stephen) Reeder seems to think they can do it without having to totally redo everything.”

Reeder said if the locks and dams were to be opened up, it would not be for at least two years.

Owen County Leadership alumni David Morgan said he had also attended meetings concerning the possibility of opening the locks and dams.

“This really came about when Frankfort began revitalizing their river front,” Morgan said. “They began looking to open locks one through four and it would really be something that all of the surrounding counties could take advantage of.”

Executive Director of the Frankfort-Franklin County Tourist and Convention Commission Joy Jeffries said the economic impact for Owen County would be huge if the locks and dams are opened.

“There would be the possibility of a refueling place and a marina slip,” Jeffries said. “There would just be so much opportunity and I can tell you that Judge Keith sees the economic impact this project would have.”

Keith said both the Monterey and Gratz areas would benefit from the project.

“I’m very excited,” Keith said. “We might be able to use this as a means to encourage tourism within the county.”

Morgan said if the locks and dams were to be opened it would be a great opportunity to further amp up Owen County’s tourism efforts.

“It’s really a shame that we have this resource that’s not being used,” Morgan said. “This would mean a lot for us and would bring a great number of people to our county.”