KENTENIA STATE FOREST
Kentenia is the oldest state-owned forest, acquired in 1919 as a gift from the Kentenia-Cantron Corporation. It is located in Harlan County along the south side of Pine Mountain in seven scattered tracts totaling 4,277 acres. The largest of these tracts is accessible by Little Shepherd Trail and contains Goss Park Camping Area on the crest of Pine Mountain.
Kentenia State Forest, located in southeastern Kentucky, has a rich history dating back to the early 1900s. Here is a brief overview of the forest's history:
- Formation: In 1919, the Kentucky legislature authorized the establishment of the State Forest Commission, with the goal of acquiring and managing forest lands in the state. As a result, Kentenia State Forest was officially established in 1925, becoming the first state forest in Kentucky.
- Original Purpose: The primary purpose of establishing Kentenia State Forest was to support forest research and provide a demonstration area for sustainable forest management practices. The State Forest Commission aimed to promote the replanting of trees on logged and degraded lands, including barren areas and surface-mined lands.
- Acquisition of Land: The initial land acquisition for Kentenia State Forest started in 1925. Additional parcels were gradually added over the years, expanding the total forest area to its current size of approximately 3,994 acres. Most of the acquired lands came from tax delinquent properties and privately owned lands.
- Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) played a crucial role in the development and improvement of Kentenia State Forest. CCC camps were established within the forest, providing employment to young men and enabling the construction of roads, trails, firebreaks, and recreational facilities.
- Reforestation and Forest Management: With assistance from the Kentucky Division of Forestry, continuous efforts were made to reforest Kentenia State Forest. The initial focus was on planting trees to reclaim previously barren or deforested areas. Over time, sustainable forest management practices were implemented, including timber harvesting, wildlife habitat improvements, fire protection, and educational programs.
- Public Recreation: Kentenia State Forest has always been open for various recreational activities. In the early years, hunting was a popular activity, and designated hunting areas were established. Later, the forest started offering opportunities for camping, hiking, fishing, picnicking, and horseback riding. Today, it continues to provide a range of recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors alike.
Throughout its history, Kentenia State Forest has played a vital role in advancing sustainable forestry practices and promoting public enjoyment of Kentucky's natural resources.