Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 6, 2012

Growth opportunities — Bluefields can benefit from ATV traffic

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— As the first stop for visitors to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system from the Interstate 77 corridor, the city of Bluefield is poised to benefit from the out-of-town visitors. That’s why it is prudent for the city, and its merchants, to aggressively pursue the ATV traffic. And the same goes for the neighboring town of Bluefield, Va.

Greg Shrewsbury, economic development director for the city of Bluefield, is urging local merchants and entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunity. He believes existing restaurants in the city are in a particularly good position to cater to the off-road visitors, as most will be looking for a place to eat after exiting the interstate corridor.

While the ATV riders generally prefer to stay at or near the actual trail, both Bluefield and the town of Bluefield, Va., are still in a great position to provide not only lodging but also food and shopping opportunities for the out-of-town visitors.

The city of Bluefield will be putting trail-related signage up to help direct the visitors from I-77 to food, tourist and economic centers in Bluefield, according to Shrewsbury.

“The city and I will be engaged in street signage from a strategic point to help direct traffic to places including John Nash Boulevard, downtown, Cumberland Road and out to U.S. Route 52,” Shrewsbury said last week. “We have an opportunity to help direct traffic throughout business and commerce areas. We can manage traffic through economic areas. Traffic is coming through those areas already since Bluefield is a point you have to cross through to get to the trail system.”

Shrewsbury is also encouraging area businesses and restaurants to consider their own signage aimed at welcoming ATV riders.

Shrewsbury said meetings are being planned with both the South Bluefield Merchants Association and the Downtown Merchants Association to discuss ways local businesses can take advantage of the additional out-of-town traffic.

City officials met last week with Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority Executive Director Jeff Lusk as part of the planning process.

“The entire Hatfield-McCoy trail system is the fastest growing attraction in West Virginia,” Shrewsbury said. “It is the only West Virginia attraction that did not suffer during the economic crises in 2008 and 2009. The system is growing and even grew during the economic crisis. This is low-hanging fruit for merchants in Bluefield and we have to take advantage of it.”

We agree. The city of Bluefield, as well as the town of Bluefield, Va., should make concentrated efforts to actively attract the off-road visitors into their corporate borders. It’s a great way to boost downtown business and tourism revenue. The added downtown traffic could also help spur new economic development and growth — new restaurants, new stores and new lodging facilities. All of which are urgently needed in the two Bluefields.

The trail riders are already here and will continue to visit the region year round. The new Pocahontas Trails near Bramwell are off to a great start. There is little time to waste. Town officials and merchants in both Bluefields should act quickly and aggressively to lure the out-of-town visitors into their corporate borders.