Kentucky-Virginia Park to Welcome Record-Setting Swing Bridge

BREAKS, Va. (CN) – The world’s longest swinging pedestrian bridge is about to join Kentucky and Virginia as part of a former-coal country grant program.

Jonathan Belcher, executive director and general counsel of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, right, presents a ceremonial check to Breaks Interstate Park Superintendent Austin Bradley. The grant represents an award of up to $433,000 for improvements at the park, including the construction of a 725-foot pedestrian swinging bridge across the Russell Fork gorge from the Virginia side of the park to the Kentucky side of the park. (Credit: VACEDA via Courthouse News Service)

The 725-foot bridge will cross Russell Fork gorge in Breaks Park, a 4,600-acre interstate park, which will pass over a section of river known for kayaking thanks to water dammed and then released from the Pound River’s Flanagan Reservoir.

Breaks Park Superintendent Austin Bradley said in a statement that the bridge and additional funds left over, about $326,000, will help the park continue efforts “to diversify into a national destination for outdoor recreation.”

Those diverse efforts include the addition of electrical infrastructure for the park as well as improvements to onsite camping and an adventure outpost.

The money for the grant comes from civil penalties levied against mining and mineral-resource companies when they violate state laws. A statute in the Virginia code reserves 50% of the money from these penalties for state parks.

Last September, Breaks Park received $92,000 thanks to the same program.

The grant program is managed by the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, known as the VCEDA. Developed in the late 1980s to support Virginia’s once-thriving coal mines as the industry began to leave the area, VCEDA helps fund industrial parks, high-speed internet for the rural region and other improvements that hope to see commerce return to the area. 

“VCEDA is pleased to continue to support the growth and expansion of the Breaks Interstate Park,” Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director, said in a statement announcing the grant. “The park is a primary tourism asset in Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and VCEDA is pleased to play a part in this latest project.”

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