Thanks in part to a donation by a local Williamsburg family, Whitley County residents will soon have another boat access point along the Cumberland River.
On July 25, Donnie Patrick, Brenda Patrick, Ronnie Patrick, Jan Patrick, Donnie Bruce Patrick, Debbie Patrick and Stephen Patrick deeded 3.7 acres of land at Ballard Ford to Whitley County as a gift.
“We are trying to make a river point access there. We are going to improve the road into it where people can get out on the old ford shoals and put in a boat off of it,” said Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr.
“Absolutely we appreciate the donation. It is really great to see members of the community try to contribute to a tourism project like that that so many people locally and from out of county might end up getting use out of.”
Donnie Patrick said that area is a place that he and his family have always enjoyed going to canoe and they hope their donation will make it a place that more people can enjoy.
“A lot of people can’t afford to go to different places to fish and things. We just wanted to give them an opportunity to have a place to put their boats in and enjoy the river that way,” Donnie Patrick added.
White said that once it is completed, people will be able to put a variety of boats in the water at Ballard Ford, including canoes, kayaks, jon boats, and small fishing boats.
“This will make it a little easier to do that with the improvements that we have planned. We are trying to make it where you can get a two-wheel drive pick-up down there. Right now you would have to have a four-wheel drive to get down there,” White noted.
Other planned improvements are parking, some street lighting and security cameras that will make the area safer and so people will feel safe leaving their vehicles there while they enjoy the water.
In addition, White said there may also be some campsites set up.
“We want to try and make it a good place for families of Whitley County to use and enjoy,” White said.
White said that tourism and local funds would be used on the Ballard Ford project.
“We are not actually having to do a full ramp like we have done in the past because there is a natural ramp that already exists there at the shoals,” he noted. “We are just mainly doing the road improvements and cleaning the property up a little bit and try to make it a little more accessible.”
White said he met with a contractor last week about pouring some concrete to make it less slick at the river point access.
The county road department plans to begin the roadwork portion this fall.
White hopes to get the project complete this year in time for people to begin fully utilizing the new access point next spring.
Expanding tourism is an area where Whitley County needs to focus, White said.
“The Cumberland River is a big asset to Williamsburg and Whitley County. Cumberland Falls is one spot on the river that has brought hundreds of thousands of people to our county over the years,” White noted.
“We need to try and take more advantage of the other parts of the river too. This gives us an opportunity to do that.”
White said this also fits into the bigger plan the county has to put in various river point access sites every three to five miles along the Cumberland River.
The Ballard Ford site fits in with that because it is located between a ramp at Croley Bend, which is being permitted now, and the Red Bird ramp that is already in existence.
“When you include the Williamsburg ramp, which is located across from the courthouse, you will have four access points that break up that stretch of river all the way from Williamsburg to Red Bird,” White said. “We are working on another project to try and move that upstream but we have not actually acquired property for one of the sites yet.”
White said the other proposed site in located on the county’s industrial park property at Savoy. That access point would take boaters out on the Clearfork River only a few hundred yards from the Cumberland River.
“That confluence is a very good fishing hole. It would be a good float through the city of Williamsburg from there to the city ramp,” White said.
White said the county wants to divide the river up with various access points so that novice canoeist and kayakers can better enjoy a float down river, or so someone can go out and enjoy a float down the river even if they only have an afternoon free.
“You want to make it where it is comfortable and fun for people. I know some people that have tried to kayak all the way from the Williamsburg ramp to the Red Bird ramp in a day and it is very difficult if you are in still water conditions,” White added.