Tuesday, November 12

KBBC Conference Trip Report

The Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeway Commission (KBBC) was formed by the Kentucky legislature in 1992. It is tasked to: 
 
  • represent the interests of bicyclists in advising the Secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on all matters pertaining to the use, extent, and location of bicycles and bikeways
  • assist the bicycle and bikeway program in the exercise of its duties within the Cabinet, and
  • promote the best interests of the bicycling public, within the context of the total transportation system, to governing officials and the public at large. (KRS 174.125(3)(a)-(c))
 
The Commissioners are appointed by the Governor.  
 
The Commissioners are appointed by the Governor.  Current Commissioners are:
Chair William Gorton, Helen Siewers, Jason Ramler, Catherine McBride, Brian House, Randy Thomas and Schley Cox.
 
Chairman Bill Gorton giving the opening remarks on Friday
 
 
The KBBC holds an annual conference and meeting in the fall of each year.  This year Jenny Wiley State Park was chosen as the location for the conference due to its proximity to the recently opened Dawkins Line Rail Trail.
 
While the initial successes of the Dawkins Line construction were the centerpiece of the conference, the day and a half agenda was packed with a variety of useful presentations and relevant speakers.
 
Things kicked off on Thursday with a presentation by two gentlemen from Tennessee who recently worked to plan and gain approval for the new US Bicycle Route (USBR) 23 through their state.  They shared how they conceived of the new federally recognized route and the yearlong process they went through in researching and scouting the route.  They ended the presentation identifying where USBR 23 ends on the Tennessee/Kentucky State Line.
 
Thursday afternoon continued with a workshop entitled "Ideas to Improve Bicycling in Kentucky" in which the Commissioners led a discussion with the entire group on issues that specifically face cyclists and advocates in our state.  There were many organizations and agencies represented in the discussion including BGADD, CVADD, BSADD, KYTC Planning, KYTC D/10, Kentucky Adventure Tourism, Lexington Area MPO, Kentucky Rails-to-Trails Council, Bluegrass Cycling Club, Kentucky Mountain Bike Association, Kentucky State Parks, local officials, and citizen advocates.
 
The purpose of the two hour discussion session was for the KBBC to formulate their annual Recommendations to the Secretary of the Transportation Cabinet and to complete the 2014 League of American Bicyclists Survey (which determines where Kentucky ranks against other states in bicycle friendliness).
 
Most of the day on Friday was dedicated to the sharing of stories by different agencies that were involved in the conception, planning, construction of, and ongoing maintenance and oversight of the new Dawkins Line Rail Trail which currently runs between Hager Hill, Kentucky just south of Paintsville and Royalton, Kentucky 18 miles away and just a few miles south of Salyersville.
 
Eastern terminus in Hager Hill
 
 
Designed to be used by hikers, joggers, bicyclists and equestrians, the Dawkins Line is a soft surface multi-use trail that follows an abandoned RJ Corman rail corridor and which promises to bring economic development in the form of recreational tourism to the area.
 
Eventually the trail will be 36 miles long with numerous trestles and two tunnels.

Sandy Runyon, Executive Director of Big Sandy Area Development District shared how BSADD worked as a catalyst and “third who joins” during the earliest stages of development of the Dawkins Line project.  Two District staff members, Denise Thomas and Regina Hall McClure, were the engines behind the project within the ADD as meetings were held with local officials and RJ Corman in 2003, during which much education was needed to help the communities of the area see the vision of a trail as an economic development tool.

Later in the game Kentucky Adventure Tourism came on board and helped weave together many of the earlier efforts between the various stakeholders, and eventually the state bought the line from Corman and established a way for the trail to be constructed and maintained.
 
The trail was modeled after the highly successful Virginia Creeper Rail Trail that passes through the small town of Damascus, Virginia.  In less than 20 years Damascus went from an economically dead town with 333 residents to a thriving outdoor recreation destination with nearly a thousand residents, seven bicycle-related businesses, numerous restaurants, lodging establishments and the nickname "Trail Town, USA."
 
Early indications following the June 15 opening of Kentucky's Dawkins Line is that it will be an economic boon to the region which crosses Johnson, Magoffin, and Breathitt Counties.  The City of Salyersville is already exploring possible new trail connections from downtown to the Dawkins Line, and the City is working toward being designated as a Kentucky Trail Town.
 
The final sessions of the conference highlighted state and local bicycling initiatives in Kentucky.  Troy Hearn, the statewide Bike/Ped coordinator talked about ongoing KYTC efforts as well as the upcoming Bike/Ped survey and facility inventory the Area Development Districts will be working on as part of their contract with the Cabinet.
 
There was a presentation by the Sheriff of Greenup County sharing their efforts there to build a network of bike routes and trails there to foster community development along with other endeavors to revitalize their communities.
 
Cindy Foster, City Clerk of Sadieville, talked about Sadieville'songoing efforts to gain Kentucky Trail Town designation, and spoke briefly of the Bluegrass Tomorrow Bike Hike Horseback Trails Alliance which the ADD has been involved with, providing mostly mapping services, that has focused on visioning a future network of trails in Scott and northern Fayette Counties.
 
Then Randy Thomas, president of the Bluegrass Cycling Club and new KBBC commissioner gave a brief overview of the Bluegrass Bike Partners program which is a network of bicycle friendly businesses, organizations and residences around the region where cyclists can use restrooms, obtain emergency aid and repairs in some cases, and which generally act as passive aid stations on rural roads in remote areas.
 
 
 
The final local update was given by Chris Robinson of London who spoke about the increasingly popular Redbud Ride that's held in London each spring and of the ongoing efforts in and around London to promote cycling for recreation and tourism.
 
The conference closed with a presentation by Troy Hearn who is also the president of the Kentucky Mountain Bike Association (KYMBA) on KYMBA's efforts around the state to increase opportunities and access to mountain biking.
 
On Saturday the Commission had a business meeting in the morning and then the group met for a ride on the Dawkins Line after lunch.
 
The conference was a great success as a meeting of like-minded individuals to share stories, ideas, and vision for cycling in our state.  On Friday there were about 40-50 people in attendance for most of the sessions.  There was much good discussion about how infrastructure and culture are developed and implemented.  Many good suggestions were discussed and vetted by the group, and I am very eager to read the KBBC Recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation.
 
I'd have to say the best take-away for me from the conference was something I heard KBBC Chair Bill Gorton say at the Kentucky Walk/Bike Summit this past spring:

"If not me, then who?"

With that said: get involved.  Ride your bike and be seen.  Join the conversations.  Provide your input and experience and listen to what others have experienced. 

 

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