Pedaling forward

The Bailey’s Trail System will eventually feature 88 miles of mountain bike trail in the Wayne National Forest.

Note: This story appears in the Friday, Oct. 11 newspaper on Page A1.

Another major grant financing the Baileys Trail System project in Wayne National Forest was announced this week.

The Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership, is offering $1.2 million toward the project. This is part of a broader $44 million in grants to fund development projects in “Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities.”

ARC awarded other funds in this area to an addiction treatment program and to a project to install more than 150 miles of fiber to provide broadband internet to rural areas of Southeast Ohio.

The trail funding is being awarded to Rural Action, which reported in a news release that it is contributing (along with its partners) an additional $750,000 into the project.

“I think this has the potential to be a significant opportunity for our region, and we are excited to be a part of the effort,” Rural Action CEO Debbie Phillips said in 2018 when the grant proposal was submitted.

The Baileys Trail System will eventually feature 88 miles of mountain bike trails. Proponents have estimated the attraction will draw 180,000 visitors to the Wayne National Forest each year, leading to new jobs, businesses and tourism-related spending.

This grant funding is meant to pay for “collaborative marketing, entrepreneurial training and support, trail town place-making and workforce development.”

The Baileys project has already received funding from a number of other grant sources. The overall project is estimated to cost $12.3 million.

The Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia, a council of governments including the city of Athens, was recently formed to help with the project.

Phase 1 of the project involves construction of 13 miles of trail on Wayne National Forest land with two miles of it on Chauncey park land, The Messenger previously reported. (There are separate plans to build a Chauncey bike path spur connecting the village to the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway.)

Several political figures applauded the funding.

“This $1.2 million ARC POWER grant is great news because as it will help ensure that Rural Action has the resources needed to expand the emerging world-class trail system in the region,” said U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in a statement, “through constructing trailhead amenities, supporting entrepreneurship, and helping the economic development of towns and local communities along these trails.”

The other noteworthy ARC grants include:

$1.5 million

  • to Shawnee State University in Portsmouth for its LIGHTS Inclusive project, in which Ohio University and Hocking College are partners. Standing for Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Toward Sustainability, LIGHTS is working to help those with substance abuse addiction through partnering with innovative recovery networks.

$2.5 million

  • to Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative in Gallipolis toward its Southeast Ohio Broadband Backbone project. This will fund installation of 168 miles of fiber to create a broadband network reaching underserved areas in six counties, including Athens, Meigs and Vinton. This will serve approximately 2,000 households and 70 businesses.
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