Editorial cartoon

It seems like it’s been at least a decade ago that federal and state officials traveled to Prestonsburg to announce the city would receive $1.95 million to convert an unused railroad line into a tourist attraction.

But it really wasn’t that long ago. The announcement came in August 2017, and, with reporting we were lucky enough to print this week, it appears that this 11-mile rail trail project actually is coming to fruition. As a matter of fact, Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton expects it to be finished by this summer, and, possibly, even sooner than that.

That is good news for a city and a county that needs a reason to look up right now. Amid all of the uncertainty this region faces because of the downturn in the coal mining economy, this rail trail project stands as a beacon of hope for residents of Prestonsburg and David — all of Floyd County, really.

We are thankful to be able to report this week that the David School is planning to open its Falcon’s Nest Cabins to visitors of the Prestonsburg rail trail and the Dawkins Line rail trail. They’re in the perfect location, these cabins, right at the end of the Prestonsburg trail and near a connection with the Dawkins Line trail, and the officials leading the charge to start this tourist-related business venture should be commended for setting an example for others to follow.

It’s the first business proposal that’s been linked to the rail trail project and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to tell that story. We hope it’s the first of many small businesses that open up along this trail. We hope others take that lesson and develop some type of business that can welcome and accommodate tourists who visit the trail, as Stapleton suggested.

Prestonsburg officials are putting a lot of effort into this project. They already have, and whether we realize it or not, that effort began long before the funding was announced in 2017, and it will continue long after the trail officially opens this summer, as Prestonsburg officials work to maintain it and keep it safe.

We encourage Floyd County residents to welcome this trail, as they would any visitor. Sit back for a moment and think about the possibilities this trail could bring to little communities like David and Prestonsburg, to the people who live here.

A lot of folks in this neck of the woods have lived here for decades, not far from home places their families established generations ago. Those people may see the beauty of Eastern Kentucky, but because they live right with that beauty and see it every day, they may not realize the value of it. They may not see the value of having a hillside to climb or a creek to listen to on summer evenings, or how someone in another part of the country may want to enjoy some of that serenity, too.

Maybe in addition to sparking inspiration for a few entrepreneurs, this rail trail will also spark a sense of pride and self-worth that Eastern Kentuckians lost some time back, with all the stereotypes and accompanying hoopla that earmarked our residents as just run-of-the-mill ole’ hillbillies.

An old African proverb says, “For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

And that’s the gist of what has happened — and what it is bound to happen — with this rail trail project. It’s like an apple tree we planted in the backyard years ago, and after nurturing it all this time, there comes the fruit.

The key, for Floyd Countians who are up for the task, is to learn how to make it in these hills the way our ancestors did, to learn how to use the things around us to not just survive, but thrive.

When it’s done, this trail will lead us to that possibility and more, if people are open to seeing the potential and are willing to try to reach for those possibilities.

And as the entity charged with telling this county’s story, we couldn’t be more proud and thankful for the opportunity to share that beacon of hope with all of you.

The road’s nearly open, Floyd County. Where will you let it take you?

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