Joined: 09 Sep 2005
|Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2006 8:42 pm Post subject: CJ Article 7/21/06: RT effort may link Lexington Ashland
|Rails to Trails effort may link Ashland and Lexington
By Byron Crawford
The Courier-Journal, Friday, July 21/2006
A dream is beginning to gather steam along a 103-mile stretch of abandoned Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad bed between Lexington and Ashland.
The Kentucky Rails to Trails Council is urging that the old train path, known as the Lexington-Big Sandy Line, be developed as a non-motorized, multipurpose scenic trail for hiking, cycling and horseback riding.
"Basically, we have a spine running from Lexington to Ashland that can connect several parks, several lakes and could just be a tremendous tourism draw," said Dixie Moore of Lexington, a spokesperson for Kentucky Rails to Trails. "I think that, throughout the state, towns are waking up and saying, 'We need to have a trail system.' "
When the railroad was abandoned about 20 years ago, ownership of much of the right of way reverted to those whose land the track traversed. Rails to Trails would need agreements from the current owners to develop the trail. Planners also say some sections of small county roads that parallel the rail bed could serve as trail links in many places.
Moore estimates that it might take 15 to 20 years to connect all segments of the trail, but she believes that towns along the route would develop some sections much sooner.
"They will be able to have a trail through the town -- sort of like a string of pearls," Moore said. "Particularly Carter County has some extremely nice sections, and because of the potential tourism draw, that might get developed first."
From Lexington, the corridor passes through Winchester, Mt. Sterling, Morehead and Olive Hill, ending on the western edge of Boyd County.
Carter County a 'crown jewel'
"There are two old railroad tunnels in Carter County that are still open and could easily be incorporated into the trail," said Jim Ross, president of Ashland Cycling Enthusiasts. "Carter County could be the crown jewel of the trail. It just seems to me that there are some natural tie-ins for this thing to be integrated into the park system."
Ross' cycling group will be among several that will take part in tomorrow's Lexington-Big Sandy Trail bike relay from Lexington to the settlement of Rush near the Carter/Boyd County line to raise regional awareness and support for the trail concept.
"Some people say, 'It's great, but not here,' " said Moore. "Some farms do not want a rail-trail going through them -- and these concerns have to be addressed. But on the rail-trails that I have seen information on, land values on or near the trail either stay the same or go up."
Moore notes that the latest round of federal transportation enhancement funding contained more grants for bicycle/pedestrian projects than ever before, which bodes well for the Lexington-Big Sandy Trail campaign.
"I think the time has come," Moore said. "I'm sorry that I'm paying $3 per gallon for gasoline. However, it has made non-motorized transportation look a lot better to a lot of people."
To learn more about Kentucky Rails to Trails, go to www.kyrailtrail.org on the Web.
You can reach Byron Crawford at (502) 582-4791 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read his columns at www.courier-journal.com.
Posted by Dixie Moore, Secretary KRTC