Members of the Tri-Cities Heritage Development Board approved a contract between themselves and Natural Resources Properties (NRP) to provide a “Rail Trail” from Cumberland to Lynch at a meeting held on Wednesday moving the Tri-City closer to receiving a Trail Town designation.
Rail trails are trails made from abandoned railroad corridors. These trails improve communities by providing recreation and influencing economic and community development said Debby Spencer, president of the company “We Make Things Happen” located in Bowling Green.
These trails encourage physical fitness and healthy lifestyles, preserve culturally and historically valuable areas. They also strengthen local economies through tourism and job development, as well as protecting the environment Spencer added.
In 2000, the Kentucky Legislation passed HB 221 which established an Office of Rails-to-Trails programs in the Department for Local Government. This office monitors abandonments and commissioned the statewide inventory and assessment of abandoned rail corridors.
During the meeting, Lige Buell, educator at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, asked Spencer what are the obligations of a person allowing their property to be used as a Rail Trail.
Spencer said Kentucky has the Recreational Use Statute, which covers liability issues for land owners who allow their property to be used for a Rail Trail. She said the law was designed to encourage owners of land to make the areas available to the public for recreational purposes by limiting their liability toward persons entering the property. She said more information can be found in KRS 411.190.
“There is a huge opportunity in this area,” said Spencer. “There are places here just exploding with opportunity. The highest mountain in the state of Kentucky is here. You can take an ATV up it or a bike down it. We’re trying to get a Trail Town designation for the Tri-City area and have been working closely with Elaine Wilson, with Kentucky Adventure Tourism.”
Spencer said she feels the “Rails-to-Trails” is vital to the area and a step toward the Tri-City being designated a “Trail Town.” She said this proposed Rail Trail will connect Cumberland, Benham and Lynch.
“Each of these communities offer unique things,” said Spencer. “You won’t find things they have anywhere else, especially on coal heritage. There’s Portal 31, the Kentucky Coal Museum and so many other things you can do along this old rail line. The trail will be for hiking, biking and horseback riding. They also have ATV trails that I know people would pay to ride. There are coal houses converted into guest houses, a new Lamp House Coffee Shop and Cafe, all these things can be packaged together, but you have to have a connector trail to take you to all of these things. A Trail Town status will be huge for this area. It will be the only Tri-City Trail Town designation in the state of Kentucky.”
Spencer said Natural Resources Properties own the rail line in this area, along with “a few private owners along the way.”
“We have met with them and they are willing partners to allow us to create this into a Rail Trail,” said Spencer. “We just need someone to sign a contract with NRP saying they are giving this trail to you, not to own, but to use as a Rails Trail.”
A motion was made by board member Barbara Ayers and seconded by Roland Cornett to sign the contract with NRP allowing the Tri-Cities Heritage Development Board to be responsible for maintaining a Rails Trail connecting Cumberland, Benham and Lynch.
Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-573-4510 or on Twitter @Nola_hde