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Primary state funding for a 26-mile scenic rail trail is secured

This state map highlights the proposed route of the 26-mile trail
This state map highlights the proposed route of the 26-mile trail

A long-awaited plan to develop 26 mile long scenic trail across Craig and Botetourt Counties has its initial state funding. Meanwhile, the head of a citizens’ group says there should be lots of time for those living in that area to weigh in.

The $1 million for the Craig Botetourt Scenic Trail announced last fall by the Commonwealth Transportation Board serves as a starting point. That path covers a stretch between the communities of New Castle and Eagle Rock.

The money is needed for bridge repairs, and prepping the surface to one day offer hiking, horseback riding, and other activities.

Woody Lipps heads a Craig County Citizen’s committee. “We do have a lot of national forest here," he said. "And to showcase that in a tourism-type environment, it’s a clean industry. The jobs associated with it aren’t extremely high-paying jobs, but they’re more jobs that we have here now.”

But Lipps, a former employee of the U.S. Forest Service, says those living along the trail have their share of concerns. “Are they going to be able to camp?," he questions. "Can they use motorized vehicles? I use the rail bed as my driveway – how am I going to get to my house? If you’re going to close the trail to motorized vehicles, where’s our emergency access?”

Lipps says the idea that the state convert the land to a scenic trail goes back as far as 60 years.

While final work is likely years away, he says the first open houses to review plans could take place as early as this summer.

Jeff Bossert is Radio IQ's Morning Edition host.