A busy downtown and an even busier boat launch is what policymakers were hoping for as a result of the new boat access on Burnett Street, and last weekend they saw a preview of just how busy it could get.
Ken Freeman's Bass Pro Shop Big Cat Quest fishing tournament took over the city's new, $3 million boat launch just over a week ago, and the responses rolling in are nothing but positive. Although the launch still has odds and ends before completion, Freeman said he believes the Ohio River Boat Launch is an asset with major possibilities.
"I would say it's the best thing that has happened to the area in years," Freeman said. "In the past, we have taken tournaments to Land Between the Lakes or areas farther away, but now Paducah can host quality fishing events. It's really great."
Construction on the 82-space parking lot and five-to-six-lane boat ramp near Sixth and Burnett streets began in May and finished, for the most part, in early December. The city will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony when temperatures rise. The project included road improvements to enhance street access to the launch, along with an 8-by-80-foot courtesy dock downstream from the Paducah Expo Center.
The launch was an adjacent part of the riverfront development project. A $2.25 million Federal Highway Administration grant was used to fund nearly 90 percent of the construction. Workers are still planning to add signage and some electrical access in the coming months.
Fishing tournaments have been held in Paducah by using the foot of Broadway section of the riverfront. The section behind the murals is cramped, Freeman said, and caused frustration with his fishermen. Last week's event had more than enough parking, Freeman added, and brought compliments.
"I stopped by to see how things were going, and they were all so complimentary of what we have out there," City Commissioner Sandra Wilson said. "That was the first of what I hope is many more tournaments to come. They bragged on it so much that I really believe there will be a lot of interest once the word gets out."
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.