GLASGOW – A lot has happened with Cave Country Trails Inc. over the last couple of months, starting with the development of U.S. Bike Route 23 in Kentucky.
U.S. Bike Route 23 starts at the Kentucky/Tennessee state line in Simpson County and ends in LaRue County with the TransAmerica Bike Tour. U.S. Bike Route 23, which includes Mammoth Cave National Park, is 118 miles in length.
“We did get that official word finally,” said Helen Siewers, project director for CCTI. “There had been sort of an administrative hiccup, but it's all resolved and it's a thing.”
By assessing what resources each community already had while working on Kentucky Trail Town applications is how the U.S. Bike Route 23 project came along, she said.
CCTI had to do a lot of work to get the bike route designation. After identifying the route, members of CCTI rode it and then drove it.
“We looked at numbers from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet as to the average vehicle traffic on those roads, determined the best roads that we felt they were for cycling, road quality, the views, the areas it goes through (and) how it highlighted our communities,” said Eddie Bruner, president of CCTI's board of directors.
CCTI also worked with National Park Service on a feasibility study to determine which roads in MCNP would be best suited to be a part of the route, he said.
“We had to put all of that together as a package. We worked closely with Troy Hearn, who is the bicycle, pedestrian coordinator (for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet) in Frankfort. It was submitted to Adventure Cycling, who shepherded the project from there through Washington for approval as a national designation. That was all approved this fall,” Bruner said.
The bike route project received final approval in December. The next step for the project is installing signs along the bike route.
KYTC will place signage for the route along state highways, he said.
“The part of the route that is on anything that is county or local city municipality the state doesn't have the ability to put any signage on, so we will have to work with the various counties and districts on that,” Bruner said.
CCTI has approached the Warren County Fiscal Court, which has agreed to put signage up on its county's roads.
Hart County has the ability to make signs, so its fiscal court will take care of signage on its county roads, as well, he said.
“We may have a little bit through Edmonson and some in Barren that we may need to secure some funding or go to those counties for but we're not sure about that yet,” Bruner said. “We're just starting the signage phase of this project.”
CCTI is also partnering with MCNP to prepare an application to designate portions of the Green and Nolin rivers that pass through the national park and flow downstream through Brownsville to Alexander Creek as national water trails.
The ultimate goal of CCTI is to connect 11 communities, two state parks and one national park together via trails, whether those trails are for cycling, hiking or kayaking, in an effort to promote healthy lifestyles and economic development in relation to outdoor tourism.
Long-term goals for CCTI are actually building the trails to connect those communities and parks.
“Those are still on the list, but those are projects that require local government resources whether it is in the form of grants or budgeting,” Siewers said.
What's next for CCTI is a search for a new project director. Siewers has given notice that she is leaving due to taking a job in Tennessee with Nashville Greenways.
“It wasn't an easy decision to make,” she said.
Siewers will start her new duties later this month.