Expanding Outdoors Options
Kentucky turns Henry County
land into public wildlife area
Land near Gratz, Ky.,
to be available to hunters, anglers
GRATZ, Ky. (September 2014) – Hunters and anglers now have a new local spot in which to try out their woodsman and woodswoman skills. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife recently acquired a 926-acre piece of property near Gratz that has become the newest Kentucky River Wildlife Management Area tract. The land is located near Port Royal, Ky., in Henry County.
Fish and Wildlife Commission Members stood with Benjy for the camera in front of the permanent sign that will mark the lake. From left are Commission Members Terry Teitloff, Voncel Thacker, Frank Williams and Steve Glenn, Commission Member Emeritus Dr. James R. Rich, Benjy Kinman, Commission Member Jimmy Bevins, Commissioner of the Department Gregory Johnson,
and Commission Members
Stuart Ray and Chris Godby.
The department went through an 18-month long period before sealing the deal with Jefferson County, Ky., resident Stephen Boone. Their first priority was to get the new area ready for use by hunters and anglers by the opening of squirrel season on Aug. 16.
“Restoration funding was used to make the purchase. No state dollars were used,” said Mark Marraccini, spokesperson for the KDFW.
The department used Federal Wildlife Restoration Funds to make the $3,185,440 purchase on June 2. It used the value in two department-owned tracts as a 30 percent match toward federal funds. This way, no Fish and Game Fund money had to be used for the purchase.
“This addition to the Kentucky River Wildlife Management Area brings the total to 3,555 acres,” said Marraccini. It has taken about a year and a half to bring the project to fruition. The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission originally authorized the project at its December 2012 meeting. The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission consist of nine members nominated by the sportsmen and sportswomen, and appointed by the governor to staggered four-year terms. Commission members represent one of nine districts. The commission keeps a watchful eye upon the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and advises the commissioner to take such action as may be beneficial to the department and in the interest of wildlife and conservation of natural resources.
After purchasing the land, the department took action immediately to get the land ready for small game hunting, fall turkey and deer archery seasons and squirrel hunting season. “We had to install gates and signage, mark boundaries, prepare parking areas and establish regulations for use,” Marraccini said. “It will probably not be open to firearms.”
The area was officially opened to the public on Aug. 15. Conservation organizations, sportsman and sportswomen, area state legislators, county officials and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission turned out for a dedication ceremony for the tract at 2 p.m.
“It was a really neat dedication ceremony,” said Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent.
An eagle was crying the entire time, and at the end of the dedication, it flew overhead and off, he said. “The eagles nest on the 110 acre lake is a real treasure.”
He said the state has purchased several properties in Henry County for preserves. Brent said this one will definitely be a huge asset for the county. “It will preserve hundreds of acres of land for sportsmen. It will be a big asset for the community as well.”
The 926-acre tract contains more than a half-mile of Kentucky River frontage, 664 acres of woodlands, a mix of hills and river bottoms, forested and open tracts, deep wooded ridges and 113 acres of lakes and ponds. “This is not only an impressive addition to the Kentucky River Wildlife Management Area, it is precisely the kind of place where memories are made,” said Gregory Johnson, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner.
Fishing opportunities include a 6 ½-acre pond, a four-acre pond, a 15-acre man-made lake and an impressive 110-acre oxbow lake, which is home to an active bald eagle’s nest.
“This new area presents tremendous new public outdoor recreation opportunities for hunters, anglers and all persons who appreciate the outdoors,” Johnson said in a press release.
The oxbow lake has been named Benjy Kinman Lake in recognition of the department’s fisheries biologist who retired earlier this year in February after 38 years. Kinman also served as Fisheries Division director and deputy commissioner. He was instrumental in helping the department acquire the area prior to his retirement.
Boat use on the oxbow will be limited to idle-speed only. Access to the smaller bodies of water is walk-up only. Use will be limited to canoes, kayaks and other small boats powered by no more than trolling motors. The Fisheries Division is actively sampling the lakes as well.
A major plus to this tract is that it lies within about a 30-minute drive from Frankfort and approximately one hour from Louisville, said Brent. “It’s easy to get to,” he said.
The property is three miles from the Gratz Bridge on the Owen-Henry County line.
The Welch Tract-Hardin Bottom is open to mobility impaired hunters.
To get there from New Castle, turn east off Hwy. 55/421 onto Hwy. 202 (Drennon Road) and follow to Hwy. 389. Turn right onto Hwy. 389 and follow about three miles south to the entrance. The property is located about three miles north of Gratz, Ky., on Hwy. 389.
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