Terrific news out of Kentucky this week with the date officially set for the opening of the first phase of the much-anticipated Dawkins Line Rail Trail, which now becomes the longest rail-trail in the state.
"Developing Kentucky trails such as the Dawkins Line not only boosts tourism dollars, but those trails spur other new business and economic development in nearby communities," Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said during the project's groundbreaking in Royalton in September of last year.
No sooner was the first sod turned than local businessman Don Fields was already looking for a location near the proposed trailhead, seeing opportunities to open a full-service bicycle shop, a shuttle service and a coffee shop, and exploring similar opportunities for businesses to cater to horseback riders.
"The economic impact on those communities [with similar rail-trails] is in the millions every year," Fields told the local paper.
Inspired by the example of the Virginia Creeper Trail in nearby southwest Virginia and eager to reap the same economic and recreational benefits for their community, regional leaders and locals have worked hard behind realizing the vision of the Dawkins Line. And their moment of reward is close at hand!
The first 19 miles of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail will officially open on Saturday, June 15, at 10:00 a.m., with a dedication ceremony to held at mile marker 8.3. Anyone wanting more information about the event should visit the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council's facebook page.
The Dawkins Line Rail Trail will eventually run 36 miles through the largely rural Johnson, Magoffin and Breathitt counties, and will be managed by Kentucky State Parks. Set in the Appalachian foothills and with a mild grade to accommodate bikers, hikers and horseback riders of all abilities, the Dawkins Line will, for the first time, connect locals and visitors with some of the most interesting and diverse countryside in Kentucky, and plug a number of small communities into a booming trails tourism economy.
Congratulations, Kentucky. We can't wait to ride the Dawkins Line soon!