Nature and nostalgia meet at this unique eastern Kentucky bridge

By Gian Prabhudas, Building Kentucky

A school bus can bring back memories.

It might be where we met our first best friends, shared secrets (or homework), or caught precious extra minutes of study or sleep. It broadened our horizons by taking us on field trips to local museums and factories. It deepened our love for our favorite sports and activities by getting us ‘in the zone’ for our big games and meets.  

If you find yourself hiking, jogging, or biking the Prestonsburg Passage Rail Trail for the first time, you might catch a wave of these memories at the most unique of its six bridges.

But this bus bridge does more than add flair to an already-beautiful trek and help you recall your youth — it stands as a tribute to creativity, adventure and the innovative spirit of a small town in eastern Kentucky.

“What it highlights is the ingenuity of the community,” said Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton, who led the charge behind the bridge’s creation. “We wanted to find a way to make a bridge that was different from any other in the country.”

Once the idea for the bridge caught on, Floyd County School District made the project possible by donating a recently retired school bus, and local contractors got to work joining it with the wooden-beamed bridge.

It was an instant hit.

Since the trail’s opening, the bridge has prompted a lot of interest and praise from tourists and media alike. It has helped bring attention to the area’s stunning mountain views and important historic sites, such as the Middle Creek National Civil War Battlefield and the remarkable community of David, a former coal town.

“It has not only been an attraction to many, but an inspiration as well,” said Stapleton. “And I think the trail is a lot more successful with the bridge than it would have been without it.”

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