Travelers to Vinton County will now have a much easier time finding the Moonville Tunnel, thanks to designated markers placed throughout the Lake Hope area.
As the county hopes to boost local tourism, that’s a good sign.
The new signs are just one part of an ongoing Moonville-area improvement effort, which will feature a brand-new bridge spanning Raccoon Creek to help visitors reach the tunnel. A railroad trestle used to lie there (between the tunnel and where visitors now park), but when the rail lines were pulled, so too was the trestle. Now for the first time in decades, a bridge will provide much easier access for hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
This bridge project is funded by two large grants — $50,000 from the Ohio capital budget and another $62,000 from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. No county money is being used to finance these Moonville restoration efforts.
A road bridge was donated toward the project many years ago, but there was no money to actually install it. Workers with the U.S. Bridge Company were in Moonville earlier this month to take this bridge back to Cambridge to prepare it for installation work slated for later this summer.
Brian Blair, president of the Moonville Rail Trail Association, said the plan is to have the bridge ready for fall. Once the U.S. Bridge Company’s work is complete, the MRTA and other volunteers will help complete the side railing and decking.
Blair said the Moonville signs will be a big help for visitors, who often ask local businesses and park officials at nearby Lake Hope State Park for directions. The signs were paid for by local donations; plaques of donors will soon be placed on each one.
Blair also made note of a 4-mile hiking trail between the village of Zaleski and the Hope School. The school is located on Wheelabout Road off of Route 278, where visitors to the tunnel first turn en route to Moonville.
A separate hiking path from the school to the tunnel needs additional work, Blair said, including the installation of a few more bridges. As of now, visitors can reach Moonville from Zaleski by using that first path to the school then taking Hope-Moonville Road the rest of the way.
For more information on Moonville and the trail/bridge projects, visit www.moonvillerailtrail.com. The Moonville Rail Trail Association meets the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Hope School.