Rails to Trails Project in Lawrence County

February 23, 2005 -- Posted at 6:19 p.m. CST


WALNUT RIDGE, AR -- Trains move through Lawrence County at a pretty steady pace.  The area was developed around the railroad long ago, but now, parts of that once vital rail system are fading away.


“We had an old BNSF rail spur that went through town, and it really wasn’t doing us any good in terms of providing any benefit to our industrial park,” said Ted Moskal, Executive Director of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.


The stretch of railway hasn’t been used for about ten years, and was sitting dormant in the town.  There’s a government program that allows communities to take over land owned by railways and use it for bicycle and walking trails.


“We have been working on this project for about three years to finally get the deeds in our hands,” said Ernest Briner.


The communities of Hoxie and Walnut Ridge are working together on this project for the mutual benefit of their cities.


“We are excited about the Rails to Trails project getting started, because it’s going to enhance the appearance of our town, and it's going to provide another place for our residents to walk and jog,” said Glenn Murphy, Walnut Ridge Mayor.  


“We have been extremely pleased with the level of support we’ve had from the community.  I think a lot of people were just happy to see us come in and do something with this old rail corridor,” said Brett Cooper.  


Community officials hope by making something new out of the old railway, tourism to the area will increase.


“We think it will be something that will help tourism and help the economy,” said Sherry Moore.


And in time, help preserve the railroad history of the region.


“Really, the only way to preserve the railway is to utilize what we have here.  It’s a really sore eye right now, but after the Rails to Trails project, it’s going to help us with our beautification project,” said Murphy.


The Rails to Trails project should be completed in the next few years.  The committee must now apply for grants to finish the trails.