Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 17, 2013

Dawkins Line opens

Kentucky’s longest rail trail features tunnel, tresses

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

Hagerhill — Kentucky’s newest, and longest, rail trail officially opened during the weekend in eastern Kentucky.

The first 18 miles of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail, stretching between Hagerhill in Johnson County to Royalton in Magoffin County, welcomed its first hikers, bikers and equestrian riders on Saturday. The recreational trail is expected to boost tourism to the area and attract new businesses to cater to visitors.

Gov. Steve Beshear and first lady Jane Beshear were on hand for the opening of the rail trail. It is the latest addition to Kentucky’s growing list of adventure tourism attractions, which the administration has worked to expand and promote.

The Dawkins Line will eventually extend 18 additional miles to Evanston in Breathitt County. When completed, the trail will be Kentucky’s longest rail trail.

Notable features along the completed 18-mile section include 24 wooden trusses and the 662-foot-long Gun Creek Tunnel. The unfinished second 18-mile section includes an additional 10 trusses and the 1,555-foot Carver Tunnel. It also passes an active coal tipple and travels through heavily wooded areas.

The trail is approximately 10-feet wide, built with a dense grade of aggregate to create a smooth surface that meets Disability Act standards for accessibility.

The Dawkins Line is being managed by the Kentucky State Parks system but is not a state park. It is accessible via primitive trailheads at Swamp Branch, Royalton and Hagerhill. It is open from sunrise to sunset to non-motorized traffic only.

Information about the trail, maps and directions are available at parks.ky.gov.

The Dawkins Line is named for the former Dawkins Lumber Co., which began building the line in 1912 after being incorporating the Big Sandy and Kentucky River railroads. It was used to haul lumber and later coal.

 The line was most recently owned by the R.J. Corman Co., which abandoned the line in 2004. It was railbanked by the state, which worked with the Kentucky Rails to Trails Council to develop the multiuse recreational trail.

The state purchased the Dawkins Line for $500,000 and the first phase of construction on the line cost approximately $2.7 million. The second phase of construction, which will open the remaining half will also include some improvements to the entire trail, said Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.

It will cost “at least as much” as the initial phase, he said. Phase two and is in the “planning and design stage,” with  no timeline for completion, said Lawson.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com.