HAZARD, Ky. (AP) — In the eastern Kentucky mountains that Daniel Boone helped carve out for settlement two centuries ago, his name and reputation remain larger than life.
Festivals honor the rugged, buckskin-clad frontiersman. Businesses, towns, even a national forest are named after him. But to the chagrin of some, Boone’s name is being stripped from the area’s main highway in favor of Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers’.
The former Daniel Boone Parkway, a popular two-lane road during the fall foliage season, runs roughly 60 miles through remote, mountainous forest not so unlike the terrain the trailblazer himself encountered. The state transportation agency announced its decision to rename the parkway in June at a ceremony where Mr. Rogers helped symbolically topple a toll collection booth.
Mr. Rogers, a Republican from Somerset, has represented eastern Kentucky in Congress for 23 years and helped obtain the $13 million in federal funding that allowed the state to eliminate tolls on the parkway.
Kentucky Transportation Secretary James Codell III said at the time the new name thanked Mr. Rogers for doing “many great things for southern and eastern Kentucky.”
“Nothing against Hal Rogers, but I think we’re getting a little carried away naming things after politicians,” said Mike Mullins, head of the Hindman Settlement School in Knott County. “Hal Rogers’ day will come and go, just like my day will come and go, but Daniel Boone will be remembered forever.”
Mr. Rogers, in a statement from his office Tuesday, did not address the public debate about renaming the road. “It’s a tremendous honor to have this parkway named after me,” the congressman said. “I am humbled.”
Already, signs renaming the road Hal Rogers Parkway are going up, and the old Daniel Boone Parkway signs will come down next year after maps are reprinted.
But Boone’s enduring folk-hero status in Kentucky is not so easily removed. Boone, who lived from 1734 to 1820, built his reputation as the model of the American frontiersman in the 1770s for his exploration and settlement of the state. He hacked out the Wilderness Road, which led early settlers across the Appalachian Mountains and into Kentucky and points west, and helped defend early encampments from Indians.
And his name can still draw tourists. Every fall, thousands of people gather at the Daniel Boone Festival in Barbourville to celebrate the man’s life and times, dressing in coonskin caps and parading around in buckskin clothing.
One eastern Kentucky newspaper, the Floyd County Times of Prestonsburg, said renaming the road is a silly honor that Mr. Rogers should decline.
“For all of Rogers’ ability to bring the gravy home from Washington, it pales in comparison to the legendary life of Boone,” the newspaper said.
But the Big Sandy News of Paintsville said Mr. Rogers deserves having the highway named after him because of his impact on the region socially, environmentally and politically. “We ought to be naming our kids after the guy,” the newspaper said.
Susan Ramos, an economic development specialist in Booneville, said most people she’s heard from are upset by the name change.
“Hal Rogers is a wonderful man, and he’s done a lot for this region, but renaming that road is going to hurt more than it’s going to help,” Miss Ramos said. “We’re grateful for all the money he has gotten for the region, especially for tourism. But taking Daniel Boone’s name off that highway is going to hurt tourism. It was a bad decision.”