There’s a new tourist destination for outdoor enthusiasts in southern Ohio, and AEP Ohio is proud to lend a hand with finishing a final piece of its construction.
Located in Vinton and Athens counties, the Moonville Rail Trail is a 10-mile journey through Zaleski State Forest, the communities of Zaleski and Mineral, Lake Hope State Park wetland areas and the King’s Hollow and Moonville Tunnels, the sites of abandoned land mines.
Right smack in the middle of the route is a key gap, though. The Moonville Rail Trail includes 13 bridges and two of them – located only a couple hundred yards from each other – are missing. Currently, those who want to continue the trek must leave the trail, climb over a hill and navigate light traffic on a nearby road.
A $25,000 grant from AEP Ohio will go toward installing these two final bridges as well as resurfacing the former railroad right-of-way.
According to Mary Jane Kelley, president of the Moonville Rail Trail Association, AEP Ohio’s contribution is important not just for the connectivity of the trail but for creating momentum in making the project happen.
“It’s huge. AEP Ohio was the first on board to lend support so now we’re able to go to other agencies and show that we have community involvement. AEP got us going and now the goal is in sight,” Kelley said. “It’s been a pleasure working with AEP Ohio, they have been so gracious and generous. We’re really grateful and are looking forward to a lasting partnership.”
Even before the bridges are built, hikers, bikers and horseback riders are able to enjoy the rest of the Moonville Rail Trail. Because the corridor holds water on both sides, numerous species of flora and fauna inhabit the surrounding wetland. Also not to be missed: the wood-framed King’s Hollow Tunnel and the brick-lined Moonville Tunnel, which has a history of train accidents and is said to be haunted.
“Moonville is a first-rate trail and AEP Ohio is happy to support it,” said Customer & External Affairs Manager Anthony DeBord. “It provides a great recreational opportunity not just for local residents but for visitors, too. The rail trail preserves the surrounding environment, educates people about the rich history of the region and promotes economic development through increased tourism. It’s a wonderful new outdoor destination in southern Ohio.”