New 18-mile rail trail opens in Johnson County, Ky.
RICEVILLE, Ky. — Governor Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear, along with trail enthusiasts and local officials, opened the first 18-mile section of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail today. The former railroad line is the newest adventure tourism attraction in Eastern Kentucky for hikers, horseback riders and cyclists.
“We want the Dawkins Line Rail Trail to attract tourists and help develop the local tourism economy,” Gov. Beshear said. “I know people are excited about the future of this trail and what it can do for this region.”
The Governor and First Lady joined with other officials for a ribbon cutting ceremony near Riceville in Johnson County, where an unimproved trailhead will be located.
The first 18-mile leg of the trail, from Hagerhill in Johnson County to Royalton in Magoffin County, features 24 trestles and 662-foot Gun Creek Tunnel. Another trailhead is located at Royalton in Magoffin County.
“The natural beauty and rolling hillsides are perfect for hiking, cycling and horseback riding,” said Mrs. Beshear. “There’s a great demand for new trails and I believe the Dawkins Line will become very popular very soon.”
Work on the rail trail – the largest in the state -- was carried out by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Finance and Administration Cabinet and the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. The trail will be managed by the Kentucky Department of Parks. The Finance and Administration Cabinet issued a contract to BOCA Enterprises of Hagerhill for construction of the first phase and work was completed this month.
State funding for the 36-mile former rail line was initially provided by the 2006 General Assembly. The purchase of the property from the R.J. Corman Railroad Group was finalized in the spring of 2011. The trail name comes from the Dawkins Lumber Company, which developed the rail line in the early 1900s for timber harvesting and transportation.
The Dawkins Line is modeled after another successful rails-to-trails project in southwest Virginia -- the 34-mile Virginia Creeper Trail. The trail in Virginia attracts over 200,000 visitors a year and has led to new businesses with a positive economic impact.
The 18-mile section currently has two unimproved trailheads; one near Riceville at Swamp Branch and the second at Royalton. Both have parking areas. The Dawkins Line Rail Trail is open during daylight hours and motorized vehicles are prohibited.
The second phase of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail is in the planning stages.
More information about the Dawkins Line Rail Trail is available at http://parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/dawkins-line