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The National Park Service will begin a pilot project to assess the use of horse-drawn wagons on the O&W trail in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, it was announced Thursday.

The O&W trail is the portion of the old O&W railroad grade between North White Oak Creek in Scott County and the old Zenith coal camp in Fentress County. While vehicles can be driven to the creek crossing on either side — off Mt. Helen Road in Fentress County and approximately a mile beyond the O&W Railroad Bridge in Scott County — the NPS closed the remainder of the road to motor vehicles several years ago. Currently, it is used as a multiple-use trail utilized by hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.

The pilot project will allow wagons on the road on weekdays only, while data is gathered by the NPS to determine whether the use of wagons is "practicable and desirable."

"There have been numerous requests from park visitors to use wagons on the O&W," BSF superintendent Niki S. Nicholas said. "This pilot project will allow us to gather information to see if the use of wagons can or should be allowed on a permanent basis."

Access points for wagons will be gates at Mill Creek, Zenith and the Tar Kiln Trail.

The O&W trail will remain open to hikers, bikers and equestrian traffic, and wagon usage will not be permitted on weekends.

Access for wagons can be obtained by stopping at Big South Fork headquarters on S.R. 297 just inside the BSF's east boundary between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to sign out a gate key. The person signing for the key must agree to conditions of use.