Why We Do It

Kentucky House Bill 221, An Act Relating to a Rails to Trails Program, was enacted in 2000. It created and set out the responsibilities for the state Rail Trail Development Office, detailed various provisions to encourage the process of converting abandoned rail lines to recreational uses, and called for the Department for Local Government to inventory and assess the Commonwealth's abandoned railroad resources. The Department for Local Government contracted with the Kentucky Transportation Center at the University of Kentucky to perform the research.

There is great interest at the local level in the history of rail lines that passed through communities. In many places in Kentucky and around the country, rails to trails projects provide a way for history to be actively experienced. It is an objective of this project to assist these types of community initiatives in preserving and interpreting local history through rails to trails projects.

Rail-trails are invaluable tools for conservation and preservation. Rail-trails offer a connection with the natural environment, a renewed sense of community, a restored appreciation for historical and cultural artifacts, and better health through recreation.

Kentucky, with under 15 miles of trails, ranks 47th. Only Delaware, Alaska, and Hawaii have fewer miles. By providing an inventory of abandoned railbeds and singling out railbeds with high potential, Kentucky's rank will improve.