Governor Steve Beshear's Communications Office
State Awards Contracts for Final Phase of Eastern Kentucky’s Dawkins Line Rail Trail

Press Release Date:  Monday, July 13, 2015  
Contact Information:  Terry Sebastian
Jennifer Brislin

Trail for cyclists, hikers, horseback riders set to be finished next year

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Steve Beshear today announced the awarding of two contracts for the final phases of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail in eastern Kentucky – soon to be the longest trail of its kind in the Commonwealth.

One of the contracts awarded by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is for the third and final phase – construction of 9 miles of trail from Carver Tunnel in Magoffin County to a point 1 mile south of Evanston in Breathitt County. Hinkle Environmental Services LLC was awarded the contract on a low bid of $1.71 million.

Also awarded was a contract for rehabilitation of the Carver Tunnel, located at the Breathitt-Magoffin county line. The project includes lighting for the tunnel, which is 0.7 mile in length. Sak Construction LLC was awarded the contract on a low bid of $5.96 million.

Both projects are scheduled to be completed by March 31, 2016. Once complete, the trail will run for 36 miles through Johnson, Magoffin and Breathitt counties.

“Jane and I are excited to see this project enter its final stages,” Gov. Beshear said. “We are also excited about what tourism and economic opportunities this will bring to the region and the state. These last two pieces will complete the 36-mile trail giving cyclists, hikers, horseback riders and nature enthusiasts of all kinds more to explore on what will become Kentucky’s longest rail trail.”

“I believe the completion of the Dawkins Line will provide significant opportunities for economic development and tourism in the region,” said First Lady Jane Beshear.  “The restoration of the Carver Tunnel will help us capitalize on this opportunity by providing access to the 10th longest rail-trail tunnel in the country and creating a continuous 36-mile trail accessible to everyone. The completion of the Carver Tunnel is highly anticipated both by locals and trail users alike and we look forward to welcoming visitors from across the country to the Dawkins Line and Eastern Kentucky.”

State funding for the property was initially provided by the 2006 General Assembly. The purchase of the property from the R.J. Corman Railroad Group was finalized in 2011.

The first section of the Dawkins Line Rail Trail, stretching 18 miles from Hagerhill in Johnson County to Royalton in Magoffin County, opened to hikers, cyclists and horseback riders in summer 2013. The section features 24 trestles and the 662-foot-long Gun Creek Tunnel.

“These contracts are huge for Eastern Kentucky, and we are excited for the transformation of these unused rail lines,” Sen. Brandon Smith, of Hazard, said. “As we anxiously await the completion of a great new SOAR tourist attraction, we would like to thank all those who worked hard to make this project possible.”

“I’m really pleased with the reception these rails-to-trails have received in our region, both from tourists and those of us locally who have enjoyed them,” said state Rep. John Short, of Mallie.  “Having this project move forward will only add to these numbers and give visitors another reason to see all that we have to offer. I want to thank Gov. Beshear and his administration for helping to make this possible.”

“This is certainly great news for our communities,” said Rep. Cluster Howard, of Jackson.  “Rails to trails programs are really taking off throughout this part of the country, and it’s easy to see why.  They turn something unused into a great draw for visitors and local citizens alike who are looking for ways to enjoy the outdoors and get exercise at the same time. On behalf of those who live nearby, I want to say how much I appreciate Gov. Beshear and the work he and his administration have done in this regard.”

The second phase of the project, which is near completion, extended the trail for another 9 miles from Royalton to near the Carver Tunnel. Phase II included trailhead amenities such as restrooms, landscaping, benches, water fountains for people and their horses, hitching posts, mounting blocks and small corrals near Hagerhill and Royalton.

The trail follows the old Dawkins Line railroad bed, which runs from Hagerhill to Evanston. The trail name comes from the Dawkins Lumber Co., which developed the rail line in the early 1900s for timber harvesting and transportation.

Its conversion to a rail trail is being undertaken by KYTC, the Finance and Administration Cabinet and the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. The trail is managed by the Kentucky Department of Parks.

The Dawkins Line is modeled after another successful rails-to-trails project in southwestern Virginia – the 34-mile-long Virginia Creeper Trail, which draws more than 200,000 visitors a year and has led to new businesses with a positive economic impact.

Information about the Dawkins Line Rail Trail is at