August 20, 2008 Edition

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Ceremony slated for
first phase of rail-trail

Phase one of the Rails to Trails Project will officially open Saturday. The Rails to Trails Board, along with the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, will celebrate with a ribbon cutting and fun walk Saturday morning.

The Hoxie portion of the trail is phase one, and is the only portion of the trail paved at this time. That portion of the trail was paved with a Parks and Recreation grant, said Lewis Slaughter, board chairman.

The event will begin with the Chamber ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. in the area where the trail meets Midway Road bordering Hoxie and Walnut Ridge, said Sherry Moore, Rails to Trails board member. After the ribbon cutting, a fun walk will start at Midway Road and continue south approximately one mile to the trailhead in Hoxie.

Moore said that Hoxie United Methodist Church will provide water for walkers. A van will also be available for those who don't wish to walk the return trip to Midway Road.

The Rails to Trails Board plans to walk the trail as a group, and everyone is encouraged to join them, Moore added.

"The walk is for any and everyone," Slaughter added.

The trail runs along an abandoned a 6.7-mile railroad spur. Its extends from the BNSF rail line in Hoxie, the trail head, through Walnut Ridge and eventually terminates near the airport industrial park and College City.

Slaughter stressed that an ordinance exists prohibiting any motorized vehicles from using the trail, which is intended only for walking and bicycling.

Junior Briner, board member, said the idea for the trail was the brainchild of Monte Fuller, former Lake Charles State Park superintendent. He was aware of similar projects in other areas, and broached the idea in a Chamber of Commerce tourism committee meeting. Brett Cooper, who was Chamber board chair at the time, said the committee members were immediately enthusiastic.

Slaughter said $80,000 in Highway Department funding has been approved for phase two of the project. The board is waiting for approval from the state to advertise for paving bids. Phase two extends from Midway Road on toward Main Street in Walnut Ridge.

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