After 45 years of work by committed local volunteers, the Greenbelt Trails in Elizabethtown will receive statewide notoriety.

The system is being formally added to the Kentucky Trail Town Program in a special new designation created to recognize its distinctive nature. The Elizabethtown Trail Town Advisory Board, Greenspace and the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau are planning an Oct. 1 celebration of Elizabethtown’s designation as Kentucky’s first Urban Trail Town.

“When I saw the state (Trail Town) program, I said, ‘We have been doing that for a long time,’” said Matt Deneen, who helped form the local advisory board.

The new classification was developed by the state Department of Tourism as a blueprint for expanding the Trail Town program, Deneen said. Using the Elizabethtown model, he said the state hopes to introduce the program to urban centers around Kentucky.

“We get to celebrate being the first,” Deneen said.

A reception featuring Tourism Commissioner Jay Hall is planned for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau office, 1030 N. Mulberry St. Invitations are being prepared.

Most of the communities now in the Trail Town program are in the state’s coalfields. The program was designed to help promote adventure tourism through outdoor experiences in rural communities dealing with the economic downturn. The Urban Trail Town is a new step for the work.

Greenspace established the Greenbelt network, which now features 16 trails, in the 1970s. Initially visualized as interconnected walking paths encircling the community, the focus evolved into a means of providing a taste of nature amid a developing community.

The 4.7-mile Freeman Lake Trail may be among its best known but the network includes shorter hikes tucked around business districts including the Wintersmith Trail in the center of town and the John Helm Trail at the edge of Helmwood Plaza Shopping Center. The group also has identified precious landscapes including the Emerald Cathedral where trees provide a natural canopy at the junctions of Freeman Lake Trail and three other trails. The area features a hillside chancel wall, which has served as seating for seasonal concerts.

A full list plus descrip­tions and maps are available at greenspaceky.com.

Deneen, who also serves on Elizabethtown City Council, thinks the Urban Trail Town designation will “put us on the state map” for adventure tourism and could lead to more outdoors events here.

“This really is a great way to market E’town,” Deneen said.

Ben Sheroan can be reached at 270-505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.

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