Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe visited Shepherd Mountain Bike Park in Ironton on Thursday afternoon.
Also in attendance were State Sen. Elaine Gannon, R-De Soto, State Rep. Chris Dinkins, R-Lesterville, and Donna Hickman representing U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem.
Jim Erpenbach, a member of the Valley Growth Initiative, welcomed Kehoe to Iron County, saying it was important to see leaders come to the area who support the small towns in different ways.
Erpenbach talked about the attractions the area has to offer including Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Elephant Rocks State Park, and Arcadia Valley Outdoors, a new campground which won the title of 2022 Best Campground from Terrain Magazine.
Continuing on, Erpenbach explained the area will be a total package with biking, hiking, and rock climbing once Phase Two is started. Phase Two of the bike park, which opened in April 2021, will allow for 12 more miles to be built on the mountain, mainly for easier trails for families.
Erpenbach introduced Gannon who said she was excited to be at the bike park and reminisced about her first experience at the park. Gannon said she later told Kehoe he needed to see it and the people of Iron County.
Kehoe thanked Gannon for the introduction, and said how great it is to hear the description of all of the plans going on in the area. Kehoe, who also sits on the Missouri Tourism Commission, said regional tourism is working well in the state.
Kehoe said when groups get together and draw people to the region, it works well with increasing tourism and the local economy.
Tourism is an important industry in the state, ranking just behind agriculture, according to Kehoe, with almost 300,000 Missourians working in the industry.
When communities start to develop projects like the bike park, Kehoe said incredible things start to happen.
He explained while economic conditions in Ironton have not been the brightest in the last several years, new features can be added and economic developments start occurring. Businesses have been able to sense the momentum and feel the impact Shepherd Mountain Bike Park has brought to the area.
He said destinations like the bike park are going to be what can help save rural Missouri. City residents are willing to come out to these beautiful rural destinations.
Kehoe finished by telling the attendees to not give up, saying how important it is working with one another to advance both the bike park and other projects.
For more information about the bike park, visit https://shepherdmountainmo.com/
Danielle Thurman is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be contacted at email@example.com or 573-518-3616.