Prestonsburg Rails to Trails project on track for summer completion

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 8:12 PM EDT
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PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton started working on the “Rails to Trails” trail system when he entered office in 2015. The Service Transportation Board approved the plans and the city was awarded an AML Pilot Project grant for $1.95 million. And now the project is coming to fruition.

The project is renovating 8.5 miles of the former railroad track into a new trail for hiking, biking and horse riding.

“You know, people tell me all the time “tourism will never replace coal.” Unless we find a vein of uranium running through the middle of Floyd County, we’re never gonna replace coal,” said Stapleton. “What we have to do is find alternate economies and build on that.”

Instead of “replacing” coal, the trails will celebrate it.

“There’s things to see. There’s a vein of coal in a rock face that we’re gonna identify, so people understand what it means to go mine coal,” said Stapleton.

The trail runs through six train bridges and one of them was built in 1904.

”It’s phenomenal. This is history. This bridge is culture. It’s part of the railroad and coal culture,” said Stapleton.

Stapleton said part of that economic boost will come from tourism and part is already being seen because $1.5 million of the grant went to companies within the region.

“This is where the work’s going on; these are the people that need to get the money,” said Stapleton.

He said it is also a good investment for possible emergency weather situations.

“The railroad has never flooded that anybody can remember and tell me about,” said Stapleton. “So, we’re gonna have it set up for some of the areas up through here that get flooded in and can’t get out, that can use this as an emergency corridor.”

The trailhead will be at Archer Park and will eventually lead to the cabins at The David School. It is expected to be at least partially open by the end of August.

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