Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 28, 2013

Economic growth

Time to seize upon trail system

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Last year, a new branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail opened in Mercer County and started attracting riders from across the nation. The town of Bramwell, the nearby community of Bluewell, the city of Bluefield and other parts of the county have seen a considerable number of new visitors whose spending adds new money to the local economy. More towns such as Matoaka could benefit as ridership grows and more access points to the trail are established.

Other communities lucky enough to be situated along a branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail have seen economic boosts. Mercer County stands to benefit in a similar fashion, but more amenities catering to ATV riders’ needs could boost the economic benefits.

One shortage that could hurt local ATV ridership numbers is the lack of lodging. Riders will travel hundreds of miles to reach the Hatfield-McCoy Trail and they often stay for several days. Every day they can stay enhances their benefit to the economy; and in order to stay, they need a place to sleep. Fortunately, local entrepreneurs are finally beginning to seize upon this opportunity.

 One group of investors from the state’s Eastern Panhandle recently purchased the former Bramwell High School. Their plans call for converting the structure into the Bramwell High School ATV Lodge. Other business people are working on cottages, camping areas, and some local apartment complexes are offering lodging for ATV riders. If more people join them in recognizing the business opportunity the Hatfield-McCoy Trail is offering, the lodging shortage could be resolved.

Local restaurants and grocery stores are benefiting from ATV traffic, but other amenities are needed. Visitors have named already some enterprises they would welcome.

For instance, riders have said they would like to see more car washes. Riders go through plenty of dust and mud — depending on the weather — when they hit the trails. They like to keep their machines well maintained, and getting them cleaned up after a ride is an important part of the maintenance procedure. Being near a car wash makes this task much easier.

Once the riders get their four wheelers or dirt bikes cleaned, they want to get themselves cleaned up, too. They don’t want to track all that dirt into their lodgings, so they want to wash their clothes first. More Laundromats close to the trails would help solve those problems for them.

Entrepreneurs who have stepped up to the challenge are to be admired for their willingness to meet growing ATV rider demands, but more is needed. Visiting riders spend considerable amounts of money during their visit on the lodging, food, and services they need. This demand for goods and services creates opportunities that could, in turn, create new businesses and new jobs.

The Hatfield-McCoy Trail is offering a chance for economic growth, and now is the time to seize it.