PAINTSVILLE — Entrepreneurs and tourism officials hoping to take advantage of the Dawkins Line rails-to-trails project gathered at the Mayo campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College Thursday to gather information.
Several were in attendance Thursday as Big Sandy Area Development District and the Paintsville Small Business Development Center put on a workshop and informational presentation with regard to the Dawkins Line rails to trails project.
The project is expected to offer opportunities in tourism, health benefits, recreational opportunities and a general improvement to the quality of life for Eastern Kentuckians.
During the informational, Denise Thomas with the Big Sandy Area Development District compared the project to the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 35-mile trail in southeast Virginia that runs from Abingdon to Whitetop.
The VCT creates a considerable economic impact to its region, bringing in $2.5 million in local and non local users, and has added nearly one million dollars in estimated value to the area.
The Dawkins Trail project will convert the old Dawkins Line railroad, which ran from Paintsville to Breathitt County, into a trail suitable for hiking and biking. Thomas says that the surface of the trail will be covered in dense grade aggregate, and will likely see “significantly” more equestrian traffic than the VCT.
Groundbreaking for the first stage of the trail, running from Paintsville to Royalton, began recently. Phase two is currently in the planning and development phase.
Safety and security on the trail will be overseen by the Kentucky Parks Department with local Emergency Medical Services providing most of the local support.
There are several other trails projects currently underway in the state of Kentucky, including trails in Muhlenberg County, Lexington-Ashland (The Big Sandy Trail), and Harlan County.
Following the informational section of the meeting, Thomas lead a workshop for small business owners wanting to capitalize on the rails to trails project.