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History of the Proposed Lexington Big Sandy RT

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2005 9:50 pm    Post subject: History of the Proposed Lexington Big Sandy RT Reply with quote

History of the Proposed Lexington Big Sandy Rail Trail

First there was the railroad. The railroad between the Bluegrass and Ashland was built to service the iron industry that grew up around Ashland, Kentucky in the mid 1800s.','History of the Proposed Lexington Big Sandy Rail Trail

First there was the railroad. The railroad between the Bluegrass and Ashland was built to service the iron industry that grew up around Ashland, Kentucky in the mid 1800s. The first major industry to occupy Ashland was the Clinton iron furnace in 1832. The Ashland furnace was built in 1869, the Norton furnace four years later, and the Princess furnace in 1876. Dozens of iron furnaces graced the hills of the tri-state region, most of them closing within 30 years of opening after the timber was stripped bare.

With these major iron-ore furnaces operating, the Kentucky Iron, Coal, and Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1854. The newly formed company helped lay out the street grid of Ashland, and invested a little over $200,000 in bonds for the Lexington and Big Sandy River Railroad Company. This railroad, which was originally to extend from Catlettsburg to Denton, had its new terminus at the foot of the manufacturing company. The rail line would expedite the shipment of iron and other basic products to the plant.

In 1857, the first ten miles of rail line were placed from Ashland to the Princess furnace. It was extended to Coalton a year later and to Rush in 1872. It was extended to Denton a few years later. Several years later, the Elizabethtown, Lexington and Big Sandy Railroad Company completed an extension west to Lexington. In 1880, the name of the railroad was changed to the Ashland Coal and Iron Railroad. The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad purchased this line several years afterwards.

In June of 1985, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad started to abandoned parts of the railway from Lexington to Coalton (MP 530.4). (Other authorities have it that CSX owned the line when it was abandoned). Kentucky Electric Steel, located in that community, still utilizes the track, which includes two tunnels at Princess and Ashland, for scrap metal. In Carter County the rails were ripped up in the late-1990's. Several tunnels exist in this hilly terrain, including the Triplett (Soldier) Tunnel (MP 569), Needle's Eye (Aden) Tunnel (MP 552.5), Sinking Creek (Leon) Tunnel (MP 549), and the Mean's (William's Creek) Tunnel (MP 538.7).
The first mention that I found of having a rail trail between Lexington and Ashland was given in an article by Shawn E. Richardson, the author of ìBiking USAís Rail-Trails.î That was published in the Mt. Sterling Advocate and the Daily Independent of Ashland in January 1987. He wrote:

A 100-mile cross-state trail is being planned in the central and eastern part of Kentucky, running from Lexington to Ashland. The trail would follow the former C. & O. Railroad line between these two cities; the railroad was abandoned about a year ago.

The ìRails to Trails Conservancy (referring to the national RT advocacy group),î the Morehead Tourism Commission, the Kentucky Forest Service, and the State Department of Parks are in the process of purchasing this abandoned railroad bed from the C. & 0. Rail Lines System. Highlights along this scenic, smooth, and flat grade include railroad trestles and three tunnels. The recreational use for this trail may include wildlife study, hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, cross-country skiing, and wheelchair use. Motorized vehicle use on this trail will be prohibited. ì

Unfortunately that effort did not bear fruit. Several years later in 1995 a small group of citizens mainly from central Kentucky incorporated the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council, Inc. as a 501 © (3) nonprofit tax-exempt organization. Its purpose was and continues to be to ìfoster and facilitate the conservation of greenways and railroad right of ways in Kentucky by the conversion of the holdings to trail use for the general public.î
In June of 1997 Sandy Shafer, an elected Council representative in the Lexington-Fayette County Urban Government, wrote an article in The Kentucky City on creating a ìgreen infrastructureî. She describes the KY Rails to Trails Council working with local groups to gain funding to acquire easements and right to use the land on 4 railroad beds, one of the
m being the Lexington-Big Sandy Rail Trail.

The Lexington ñBig Sandy Railtrail is envisioned to run from Lexington to Coalton outside of Ashland. It would traverse Fayette, Clark, Montgomery, Bath, Rowan, Carter & Boyd Co., for a length of 109 miles. It would go from the central Bluegrass, across the Knobs and through the eastern coalfields.

Many of the original supporters and active members of the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council were motivated by the dream of having a 109 mile continuous rail trail between Lexington and Ashland. However it rapidly became clear that to make the Lexington Big Sandy Railtrail a possibility in the state of Kentucky that the general population would have to become much more aware of the desirability and multiple advantages of railtrails. Much education and grassroots education would have to be done. Kentucky does not have a history of having and using public greenways such as are found in Europe and the northern United States. . For many years Kentuckians were so focused on getting paved roads into isolated mountainous areas that the idea of investing even minimal sums into paths for non-motorized transportation seem unnecessary, ridiculous or trivial to many.

Over the past 10 years of its existence on minimal yearly budgets of under $10,000, the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council through speakers, presentations, booths, emails, newsletters and its webiste gave out information and education on the advantages of railtrails. Their stable and growing membership shows community and state leaders that there is a strongly recognized need for rail trails.

Kentucky Rails to Trails Council remains an all-volunteer organization, dependent upon the donations of time, skill and money of its supporters. It is the only rail trail organization serving the entire state. Kentucky Rails to Trails Council has 200 dues paying members in 2003- 2004 and a mailing list of 1,700. They encouraged local groups to organize into non profits to further the development of trails. In 1998 The Bluegrass Rails to Trail Foundation incorporated for the counties of Fayette, Montgomery and Clark whose major project was the advancement of the Lexington Big Sandy Railtrail along the abandoned CSX line in their counties. The majority of the founding members belonged to the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council, Inc. In 2000 the Daniel Boone Rails To Trails, Inc. was incorporated to further railtrails in Rowan County.

In 1999 Kentucky Rails to Trails Council, Inc. served as a technical advisor to the Kentucky Legislatureís Special Task Force on Feasibility of Rail-Trails. As a result of the committeeís work House Bill 221 was filed for the 2000 legislative session. In 2000 House Bill 221 was passed establishing the Office of Rail Trial Programs in the Department of Local Government. The office monitors abandonment and is making an inventory and assessment of abandoned railroad corridors. Kentucky Rails to Trails Council, Inc. served as resource for the Department of Local Government to begin the implementation of the provisions of HB 221. The establishment of a railtrail office within state government would serve as a clearinghouse and catalyst for future work on RT within the state.

In 2000 the Lexington Big Sandy was designated a community millennium trail. Millennium Trails was a partnership between the White House Millennium Council, U.S. Department of Transportation and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in cooperation with other agencies and organizations. The naming of Millennium Trails was to recognize, promote and support trails as a means to preserve open spaces, interpret history and culture and enhance recreation and tourism. The unifying theme was ìHonor the Past - Imagine the Future.\"

In 2002 amendments to the KRTCís articles of association were passed and the appropriate forms were filed that allow the Kentucky Rails To Trails Council, Inc. to function as a land trust. Kentucky Rails to Trails Council, Inc. can now purchase and/or hold ìreal property of strategic value in developing trails for use by the public to preserve its availability to public benefit.î This was done in anticipation of holding easements and deeds to RT property along the Lexington Big Sandy and other RT routes until the time that it could be put together in a functioning trail. Also in 2002 Governor Patton signed SCR 92, a resolution establishing a task force to examine the development of the Lexington/big Sandy Railtrail and create a strategy for its completion. In 2003 the Kentucky Statewide Rail Plan was released which included the Lexington Big Sandy as one of the more viable projects in the state.

In 2003 KTRC supported the Kentucky Horse Council in their request to fund the Recreation Trails Program at the national level and to specifically state that equestrian use is one of the \"allowable activities\". Kentucky Horse Council also has indicated their willingness to give local instate grants for trails that incorporate horse usage.

The Lexington Big Sandy Railtrail will be, like all railtrails, handicapped accessible and for non-motorized traffic. It is likely that sections in and near urban areas will have asphalt pavement while sections in more rural areas will have gravel surfaces. Portions can be constructed to be accessible to horse back riders.

Funding for the LBS as with most Railtrails will come from a mixture of sources including donations from corporate and private foundations. The major source is likely Transportation Enhancement Funds that usually require a 20 percent match from the local government. In 1991, Congress enacted the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), a six-year bill authorizing a wide range of federal-aid transportation programs, including programs that fund trail acquisition and development. In June of 1998, the Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty-first Century (TEA-21) was enacted and expanded. Transportation Enhancement Activities can include : Pedestrian and bicycle facilities, Pedestrian and bicycle safety and education activities, Landscaping and scenic beautification, Historic preservation, Preservation of abandoned railway corridors, Control and removal of outdoor advertising , Archaeological planning and research, Establishment of transportation museums, Mitigation of highway runoff, Provision of wildlife under crossings , Acquisition of scenic easements and historic easements and sites ,Scenic or historic highway programs including tourist and welcome centers, and rehabilitation and operation of historic transportation buildings, structures or facilities. To date, In Kentucky the majority of the funds have been used for historic preservation of buildings.

Another source of funding authorized by TEA-21 for trail projects is the Recreational Trails Program, which funds acquisition, construction, and management of recreational trail facilities. Community Development Block Grant Program can also be used. The CDBG program directly funds cities and towns for projects with community-wide benefits. Trails can qualify for CDBG money, particularly those with documented economic, cultural and historic merits

As of 11/04 there are several projects that within the next year should have useable trail segments along the Lexington Big Sandy RT. Starting west and going east there is the work on the Brighton East Rail Trail (BERT) in Fayette County. The first one mile section to be opened for use in 2005 is from Bryant Road at Man O War Blvd to Pleasant Ridge Park. . Surface is to be, 12' wide asphalt with a trailhead at Pleasant Ridge Park on Pleasant Ridge Dr. Slightly further west Winchester has hired a civil engineer with grant monies to do the surveying of the first mile of RT in Winchester. Morehead has completed their survey and they are negotiating access over a restricted drainage way. Carter County in the spring of 2005 received a Recreation Trails Program grant of $50,000 to build the first phase, 1.6 miles, of the Olive Hill to Lawton rail trail along the LBS. The surface there will be crushed limestone and will include a natural soil trail on the side for equestrians.
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