City council gets America 250 update

Published 5:05 am Friday, October 27, 2023

By Jordan Brooks

The Director of the Bell County Historical Society, Jes’Anne Givens, addressed the council at the special called Middlesboro meeting on Oct. 24.

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Givens is the coordinator for Bell County’s America 250, and the nine-county Region 9 coordinator, for the country’s 250-year celebration. The America 250 committee has been holding meetings that started in October 2022, and most recently have started having Zoom meetings with other counties in the region.

“It’s very eye-opening to see what other areas are doing so far,” said Givens. “I’m very proud to say that they continually brought us up as we’re kind of ahead of even Lexington and all the different areas that are involved.”

Givens recalled the regional meeting held in October of last year, when it was determined that it would be better for the county to come together in a coordinated effort rather than split the celebrations into separate city celebrations. To do this, Givens looks to get the groups that best represent the county to come together and make sure that every major facility, organization, and group is represented.

“Jane Cameron was chosen as your representative for Middlesboro City Council. The two city governments have one, tourism, the Chamber of Commerce. I tried to involve all the schools… We’ve got the state park and the national park since we’re the only county in the state of Kentucky that has a National and State park within its borders,” said Givens.

“One thing I want to do is make sure everyone understands we are not doing the history of Middlesboro or doing the history of Pineville, this is when the Declaration of Independence was adopted.” said Givens. “So when we’re talking about the history we’re going to be showcasing here, there’s a lot going on here.”

Givens spoke about coordinating with Scott and Lee counties in Virginia, and Claiborne County, Tennessee.

“We’ve already got people going through the Gap, people going through Nars, Walkers already been here and named everything Cumberland after the Duke of Cumberland,” said Givens.

“What is really going on here is the reverse immigration going through the Gap. This is not the time period where you have 300 thousand immigrants that the [Cumberland Gap] National Park is so famous for. This is the group of people and immigrants who were spurred on by Dr. Thomas Walker’s Journal, when he talked about the animals and the skins. They come here and they try to hack out some forts and settlements in the area, where there are difficulties with [Native Americans] that have become quite a big problem.”

Animal skins of all kinds were sold and traded to the British and Native Americans by this first group who immigrated into the area, proving beneficial to them during the Revolutionary War.  After the war, America expanded beyond the thirteen colonies in a mass immigration that the Cumberland Gap became so famous for.

On the Bell County level, the committee has already met three times and has a little over 100 events already listed and in the planning process. Givens says at the next meeting, the committee will be looking at how to break them up over a year, such as who will be handling what, and if they should take place over the entire year, the month of July, or the day of July 4. Givens spoke about learning pieces and curriculum focused on local history for the schools, for example, that can be used year after year.

“Representative Adam Bowling has been to two of the three meetings, and I know one of the things they talked about is the state board has already asked the state legislature and the governor both for millions for this celebration,” said Givens. “Not only will there be state funds, there should be federal funds as well. The approval for these funds should be in the ballpark around March or April.”

Representative Bowling stressed the importance of applying for these funds early. Roughly in July, proposals will be made for the events that have funds available.

According to Givens, this funding can be used to address historical markers that may need repair, publishing Thomas Walker’s lost manuscript, and coordinating with other counties to celebrate.

Mayor Boone Bowling also addressed the Lincoln park project, which is nearing completion.

“We’re going to be upgrading all of our parks over time; it’s just a matter of funding,” said Bowling. “Most of what we’ve got lately has been through grants, grants look at numbers, those are more community oriented just like west end. The parks that are around more high traffic areas, but over time I would say we’re all in favor of getting all our parks.”

Council member Jade Robertson also announced officially that the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, police and fire departments are breaking ground on a 9/11 “War On Terror” memorial on Veterans day, Nov. 11 at 12:30 p.m. at city hall. The VFW and American Legion are the leading force behind this project, and are working with firefighters from Louisville and Lexington to make this happen in Middlesboro. A grant from the state will be fully facilitating the project. Robertson says the unveiling for the memorial is tentatively set for next year.

In other business, the council also:

• Approved city bills.

• Set trick-or-treat day and hours for the City of Middlesboro to Oct. 31 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

• Amended Ordinance with second reading for Fiscal year 2020-2021 #2 regarding alcohol beverages relating to regulatory license fees.

• Establish minimum structure size in an R2 Zone in the City of Middlesboro, Kentucky Code of Ordinances in second reading.

• Approved appointment of Diran Young to the Municipal Housing Board, term expires Nov. 30, 2026.

• Approved reappointment of Monica Poore to the Middlesboro Planning Commission, term expires Sept. 30, 2027.