This photo and others taken by Moonville Rail Trail Association members and trail visitors can be found at the MRTA Web site.
Tax Write-Off Lynchpin to Corridor Purchase, Ghost Stories Free
Steeped in legend and shrouded in ghost stories the Moonville Rail Trail and Moonville Tunnel are now open to the public for your spooky pleasure, or biking-, hiking- and equestrian-use.
In the 1850s, Moonville, Ohio was a mining town along the Marietta-Cincinnati Railroad. There are several legends and ghost stories surrounding the Moonville Rail Trail; the most popular being about the tunnel.
On a dark night in the late 1850s, a brakeman, drunk after playing cards, was walking through the tunnel when he found a train barreling down on him. In his inebriated state he unwisely attempted to stop the train by swinging his lantern back and forth. He was struck and decapitated. His ghost is now said to haunt the tunnel, swinging his lantern back and forth for eternity. This legend, popular with locals and those familiar with railroad lore, inspired The Rarely Herd to pen their Bluegrass song entitled "Moonville Brakeman."
The Marietta-Cincinnati Railroad is long since gone but the corridor remained. By 1997 Neil Shaw and other locals wanted access to the corridor for equestrian use, which was in rough disrepair. After many attempts by others, Shaw approached the landowner. He proposed that if permission were granted for access, the presence of equestrians would discourage any further littering or vandalism that may occur. Successful, he was granted a written permission slip.
As the group of equestrians grew, so did their wish to share it and thus began an effort to purchase the corridor, which was rebuffed with regularity. Shaw suggested that a formalized and official trail would be a source of economic development for Southeastern Ohio and specifically Athens and Vinton counties. A self-admitted instigator, he pushed for the formation of the Moonville Rail Trail Association, an organization he would later become president of, and again approached the landowner about buying the corridor. The lynchpin in the success of the deal, according to Shaw, was a tax-write off. By selling the property to the association well below market value, the landowner would be able to take advantage of a tax write-off for the remaining value. With an agreement reached, the newly formed trail group rallied community support, wrote grants and in December 2006, used $124,000 of Clean Ohio grant money to purchase the corridor and immediately donate it to Athens and Vinton counties.
With 6.5 miles open and another 9.5 miles planned, the Moonville Rail Trail Association and Neil Shaw have their work cut out for them. According to Shaw, "We need a total of 12 bridges to complete the trail, so if you know anyone that wants to donate a bridge
" While buying bridges may be daunting for many, for Shaw it just requires some more creative problem solving.