Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

December 8, 2013

An urban trail

Property given to city in 1978 offers tremendous potential

ASHLAND — Thirty-five years after Charles and Betty Russell donated to the city of Ashland 45 acres of hilly, undeveloped land near Central Park with the expressed desire that the city would use it for hiking trails and maintain it “in as natural condition as possible,” Mayor Chuck Charles thinks it is way past time to fulfill the promise city leaders at the time made to the Russells in accepting the property.

We agree, and we commend Charles, who is just completing his first year as mayor, for getting the long dormant project moving. We agree with the mayor that the land has great potential for being developed into hiking trails that will appeal to the more adventuresome among us.

The large tract of land is divided by Ashland Avenue in the area between Hilton Avenue to the north and Forest Avenue to the south. The land now has many trees and is a bit rugged and is home to numerous deer.

The mayor said he just recently discovered the city owned the tract.

“I was blown away by what we have,” Charles said, explaining he visited the site and believes it can be developed with minimal cost using the combined manpower of local civic and service clubs, as well as the local National Guard and school, Scouting and church groups.

Charles’ proposal to develop the 45 acres into hiking trails received an enthusiastic response Wednesday as members of local service clubs gathered to discuss finding a project for which they could join forces.

Spreading a large map across the table in the board room at Citizens National Bank, the mayor pointed out possible trail routes based on the topography of the property, noting the project would allow the city to seek official designation as a “Kentucky Trail Town” and generate additional tourism.

“There’s all kinds of possibilities to be able to do this,” Charles said, adding funding sources could include Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital as part of an anti-obesity campaign.

“You can follow the natural terrain and it’s really pretty beautiful down there,” Charles said, adding there is an area that has been used as a dumping ground for trash, including old television sets, but could be cleaned up by a group such as the Boy Scouts. Parking would not be a problem, because the trail head would be a block from Central Park, he said.

Representatives of civic organization attending the Wednesday meeting agreed to meet with their respective organizations to recommend and discuss the proposal. The hiking-trail development plan will be further discussed at a meeting on Jan. 8.

Development of the trail still is in its infancy, and just how it grows from here will depend largely on the support of members of local civic clubs. While the trails could become an attraction for outsiders, most urban trails are for those who live in the community, and the terrain on either side of Ashland Avenue has the potential for developing beautiful trails with beautiful views of Central Park and King’s Daughters Medical Center. The terrain can make hikers feel like they are deep in the wilderness while just being a short distance from the heart of the city.

Charles and Betty Russell had a vision for their property becoming a place of beauty where city residents can go for exercise or just to relax. Our hope is that today’s residents can help fulfill that vision.

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