Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 27, 2013

What a difference a March makes as region readies for renewed ATV growth


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — A year ago last March, we were basking in record warmth, enjoying long evenings sitting outside while surrounded by trees that were oddly barren of green foliage. It was a rather surreal experience, and one that hasn’t been repeated so far this year.

As we head into the final five days of March, a month of historic extremes, one can only begin to hope for a little spring stability. April is just around the corner after all. In the old days — as a child growing up in the coalfields of McDowell County — March was normally a month of slightly cooler temperatures and gusty winds that were ideal for flying a kite.

In fact, buying that perfect kite, and flying it in our small front yard, was always a proud family tradition. Mom would normally find the perfect kite for us at the old Kmart on Cumberland Road. Always colorful — sometimes large and sometimes smaller — flying a kite was a part of the transition from winter into spring. Those were the days. Sadly, I rarely see children and their families flying kites nowadays — and how can you with the wacky March weather as of late. Can you imagine the site of a small child, accompanied by a proud mom and dad, trying to fly a kite in all of the snow we’ve seen in the greater Bluefield area in recent days and weeks. And a year ago, we had summer heat — not March winds — during the month of March. Once again, you can’t really fly a kite when it is hot and humid outside with only a gentle breeze blowing at best in the distance.

I really do hope that all of the mess we had Sunday night into Tuesday will be the last of the big winter storms. It is spring after all. Why are we still talking about monster winter storms with accumulating snowfall? I guess that’s why they don’t use the term global warming anymore. It’s now called climate change instead. Which makes more sense. Because the climates and the seasons do appear to be changing. But at some point, we have to be able cut off our heaters, lower our thermostats and toss the winter coats aside. Maybe we will even have a chance to fly a kite in April.

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We learned from Bramwell Mayor Louise Stoker last week that the old Bramwell High School will soon be undergoing a welcomed transformation. Current plans call for turning the old high school into a new ATV lodge and resort — something that is urgently needed along the new Mercer County segment of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. As has been documented multiple times in this newspaper, the lack of available lodging facilities along the six-county trail system is a problem that is restricting growth potential.

The trail system, which brings thousands of out-of-town visitors to southern West Virginia each year, has otherwise been a huge success story for southern West Virginia. And the story will continue with the addition of the Spearhead Trail system in neighboring Southwest Virginia, which will be developed in close proximity to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system near the town of Pocahontas, Va.

The project developer is planning to open and rent rooms out as they are finished at the old high school. He is hoping to have the first room or rooms ready for occupancy by late spring or early summer. The old high school itself extends more than 85,000 square feet — so there is plenty of room for additional growth in the structure.

The new ATV lodge and resort should be a big boon to the Pocahontas segment of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system.

The peak riding season for the trail system is fast approaching, so the region can once again expect plenty of out-of-town visitors in the area who are coming to ride the Hatfield-McCoy system. The Bramwell leg of the trail system is in a great position to attract visitors. That’s because it is not only the first segment of the trail for visitors coming from the Interstate 77 corridor, but it also links with the existing Indian Ridge segment of the trail in neighboring McDowell County.

All signs point to another big year for the trail system. And keep in mind that the new Mercer County segment is not even a year old. This Memorial Day weekend will mark the first anniversary of the opening of the Pocahontas system. So additional growth, and more visitors, are to be expected as the trail system gears up for its second year of operation in the greater Bramwell area.

The trail system is another great asset to our region. It is important that we extend a proper welcome once again this year to the out-of-town visitors. If their experience is a positive one, odds are they will return to the region to ride the trails again — and also support local stores, restaurants and gas stations. The trail system is a win-win for the entire region.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens