Tue, June 29, 2004

All aboard for Kentucky rails-to-trails

Today’s Lexington Herald-Leader had two informative and postive articles about rail-trails in Kentucky. It’s exciting to see people discussing rail-trails and their health benefits.

The first article describes how initial opposition turned into enthusiasm for a rail-trail in Muhlenberg County. I enjoyed hearing Muhlenberg County Judge-Executive Rodney Keith Kirtley, who is quoted in the article, speak at the 2004 Kentucky Rails to Trails Conference. He is a gifted speaker and very optimistic about rail-trails in Kentucky.

From the article:

When Muhlenberg County officials unveiled plans to turn an unused railroad right-of-way into a public walking and biking trail, property owners along the route ran roughshod over the idea.

What a difference a couple of years can make.

The 6-mile trail between Greenville and Central City, which opened in 2002, has become one of the most popular projects the county has ever undertaken, Kirtley said. And, he said, it’s starting to help county residents shed pounds and become more healthy.

Interestingly, Kirtley said, some of the trail’s most vocal critics have become its most ardent supporters.

“The funny thing is that within a month after the trail opened, a lot of the people who had fought it were out there walking,” he said. “The very gentleman who started all the petitions and everything, he bought a bicycle and started riding the trail every day.”

The second article emphasizes the physical fitness problems of rural Kentucky and mentions that rail-trails can provide safe recreation areas:

In many rural counties, finding a place to exercise is a major roadblock.

Many once-quiet country roads are abuzz with traffic today and are too narrow for safe or pleasant walking. Fitness centers outside of town are almost unknown. One of the ironies of the obesity epidemic is that the once-sturdy country farmer — who is more likely today than a generation ago to be overweight, thanks to labor-saving machinery — might have to drive to town to find a place to exercise.

But finding a place in many smaller towns can be tough. Many lack places for indoor exercise or walking, or even commercial programs, such as Weight Watchers. Even when such places or programs are available, many working families might not be able to afford them, officials say.

“For every dollar we spend on ourselves for fitness, we’re paid back threefold in better health,” said Theresa Scott, extension agent in Floyd County, which launches its Get Moving program today. “That’s a good investment, but it can be tough when you’re already making car payments, buying kids’ braces, and all that. One thing we really need is affordable facilities to promote exercise.”

Sounds promising for rail-trails to me.

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