Thursday, May 30

Gawkin at Dawkins

The grand opening of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail in Breathitt, Magoffin, and Johnson Counties will take place on June 15 at 10:00am at the 8.3 mile marker located at these coordinates:

37.736780, -82.900059

Be there; bring the cash, and no funny stuff!  
This message will self-destruct…NOW!

Anyway, the Dawkins Line has been a long awaited multi-use trail in a rural area that is seeing the sunset of Big Coal over the land and needs a boost to the system.  There are some controversies surrounding the construction of this trail, mainly of user conflicts, historic uses, and the expectations of the local users.  
Equestrians are already damaging the surface of the trail--crusher-fines--and making it hard for hikers and bikers to enjoy the trail.  Also, ATVs have run rampant on the trail in the past and it seems that going forward it’s going to be difficult to keep them off of it.  That will be an issue of local enforcement, and dependent upon the will of the agencies involved to keep it under control.
A lot of locals are disappointed because of the horse damage and had expected a hard surface trail to be built instead of the soft surface trail that’s in place now.  It will take more effort on the part of the locals and other stakeholders to educate all user groups to be responsible and to be more considerate of the needs of others.  This is not a new phenomenon with the opening of this particular trail.
When it’s completed the Dawkins Line will be 34 miles long running generally southwest from Paintsville along the old rail alignment.  There are at least a couple of tunnels and multiple bridges.  
The project has been modeled after the highly successful Virginia Creeper Trail that is of similar distance between Abingdon and Whitetop Station, Virginia.  
Unfortunately too much stock has been put in the successes of the Creeper Trail and there has been an excessive amount of credence put into the idea of stamping out Damascus (mid-point of the VCT) trail town clones all over the place in Kentucky.  This type of success is organic and not genetically modified.  
I’m not saying the Dawkins Line or any other such project in Kentucky won’t be a success, but you can’t apply the model everywhere indiscriminately and always re-create a Damascus, Virginia.  If the Dawkins Line fails to accomplish all its promised it’s not because Damascus was a bad model, or that the idea was bad, but maybe because with vision there also needs to be a tenacity to see the project through to the end which may be decades down the road. Having vision means also having faith and patience.
I have ridden the Virginia Creeper Trail twice and have strongly recommended it to most of my cyclist friends who would be interested in that type of experience.  I'd love to go back soon and revisit it with my family.  And I'm stoked to see the Dawkins Line finished.  Unfortunately the grand opening is the same day as the Preservation Pedal.  Woe is me.
Having rained on that parade, let me finish up by saying I’m maybe even looking at doing a front porch tour to ride it once it’s complete. It would only be a 180-200 mile round trip; three easy days would be feasible or two harder days.

[The location for the grand opening ceremony is just west of Dobson, KY]

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