Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 26, 2014

Warrior Trail: Closer to reality for McDowell

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — One of the dreams of the late War Mayor Tom Hatcher was opening up the Big Creek District of McDowell County. His goal was to improve access to the Big Creek District through improved and modern infrastructure. And he also envisioned a way of bringing tourism traffic into the city through the new Hatfield-McCoy Trail system.

After his death in 2012, a team of community advocates and city officials fought to keep Hatcher’s ATV trail proposal alive. And through their continued efforts the new Warrior Trail system is moving closer to reality.

It will be the second system of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails to operate in McDowell County. The new Warrior Trail will extend between 80 to 100 miles linking the cities of War, Welch and Gary together — and opening the door to new tourism revenue and traffic to those three municipalities.

The cost of developing the new trail is estimated at $200,000, and all of the necessary funding is now in place. The McDowell County Commission is providing $37,500 for the project to match funding from other sources, and the McDowell County Board of Education has donated the old Excelsior School site near War to the county commission so it can be used for a trailhead facility, according to Commission President Gordon Lambert. The county will lease the property to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail authority for a dollar a year.

The hope is to have the new trail system up and running soon. However, a few stumbling blocks remain before construction can begin on the actual trail system. For example, the mapping process has been finished, but the final maps are still being examined by Pocahontas Land Company to see whether the proposed route is feasible, according to Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority Executive Jeff Lusk.

The authority also is waiting to receive a final environmental clearance from the state Department of Highways. And Lusk says the authority also is waiting on a second study that will determine if any cultural or historical sites would be impacted by the proposed trail route.

The hope, of course, is to have the new trail system up and running soon. Lusk says the  Warrior Trail will be one of the largest trails in the Hatfield-McCoy system. And the project’s second phase will also open up the Big Creek system to the existing Twin Branch and Indian Ridge trails, and later to the Pinnacle Creek Trail and the Pocahontas Trail in Mercer County.

County Commission President Gordon Lambert is correctly urging local entrepreneurs  to act now and take advantage of the future ATV trail by creating the lodging, restaurants, laundries and other services tourists will need. And Lambert is emphasizing that the new accommodations need to be up and running before the Warrior Trail opens.

“It will be tremendous if the people in the county take the initiative and get ready for the people who will be coming,” Lambert says. “Cabins and places for them to stay, restaurants and things that go along with them.”

We agree. And we, too, would encourage area entrepreneurs to begin thinking now about the new Warrior Trail system in McDowell County. It should be an excellent addition to the existing six-county Hatfield-McCoy Trail system. And it is great to see Hatcher’s vision coming to fruition nearly two years after his passing, as the new trail system will certainly go a long way in helping to open up the Big Creek District to new tourism opportunities and out-of-town visitors.