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Officials tour county for ideas

Deming toured the proposed Lawrence County Rail Trail, area furnaces and Ironton’s downtown riverfront development Tuesday with four other state recreation leaders and Lawrence County Park Board members.

Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Deming toured the proposed Lawrence County Rail Trail, area furnaces and Ironton’s downtown riverfront development Tuesday with four other state recreation leaders and Lawrence County Park Board members.

The park board hosted the tour, and a public forum afterward, to generate future recreation ideas – everything from new Ohio River boat ramps and picnic areas to mountain bike trails – and to find funding sources.

Joe Unger, chairman of Lawrence County Rails to Trails, said he couldn’t pass up the chance to show off the committee’s DT&I rail trail and to network for development help.

The proposed walking and bike trail would run 5.4 miles from Iron Trails Park, crossing an historic trestle and six WPA bridges, passing the LaGrange furnace and ending at an abandoned tunnel, Unger said.

"It’s pretty darn touristy if you ask me," he said.

The trail group wants to preserve the legacy of iron in the founding of Ironton, bring recognition to historic sites, attract tourist dollars and enhance economic development by giving interested companies more recreational possibilities, Unger said.

Building the trail, though, would require restoring the trestle, replacing bridgework and securing the old railroad bed property – some parcels of which contain homes.

The trail committee has members who write grants, but the group has no cost estimates or enough information to seek funds yet, Unger said.

"We’re in the early stages, but this is perfect," he said.

The rail trail, and park board projects, are also an opportunity to develop areas like LaGrange Furnace, said Marvin Black, Lawrence County Historical Society member who spoke on Tuesday’s tour.

"We would like to see some of these places donated by landowners or get them for a nice price, to turn into picnic areas," Black said.

Deming suggested the board seek recreational easements, where landowners grant usage rights for parks or shelters, to save money and get the community involved.

He also listed three grant programs, two at the state level and one at the federal level, that could bring millions to the county’s recreation projects.

"That’s some of the things we want to get out," said Doug Cade, park board administration and finance committee chair.

"This is to give our members the know-how on doing this," he said, adding the board can now draw resources from state officials who have seen the project areas.

Mike Baines, Wayne National Forest district ranger, continued the tour’s theme, discussing the Vesuvius Furnace recreation area, campgrounds and the forest’s plans for new trails and boating activities.

"This is a beautiful resource probably underutilized for the potential it could be at," Baines said. "We have an opportunity to do some super things with recreationists who are entrepreneurs The time has never been better with grants in regards to what the public can do."