Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

February 26, 2014

Lodging facilities: State study underscores need

— — We aren’t surprised by the findings of a recent study by the Senate Finance Committee. The report concluded that ATV visitors to the region are looking for additional hotel and motel rooms to stay in while riding the southern West Virginia-based Hatfield-McCoy Trail system. And many of these out-of-town visitors are looking for a high-end experience, including hotels with a nice pool and other amenities after a hard day riding on the trails.

And why shouldn’t they be looking for such higher-end accommodations? Many of these ATV riders are out-of-town visitors who are coming to our region to spend their hard-earned dollars. They are bringing new tourism revenue to the region. They expect to see appropriate accommodations to meet their needs. But when it comes to necessary lodging, hotels and motels and campground facilities, the region is still failing to meet many of their needs.

In layman terms, the state study simply says that more hotels and motel accommodations are needed for the ATV riders. And additional campground facilities — like the current proposal for Pinnacle Rock State Park — also would go a long way toward meeting these needs. Even a nice hotel in downtown Bluefield — an area that many of the out-of-town ATV riders visit after exiting getting off of Interstate 77 Exit 1— would be a big help.

“Basically, what comes out is that they need more motel rooms,” Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, said of the state study week. “ATV riders are a more high-end group. People unfamiliar with ATV riders might consider them a group of people who also want to camp as well as experience new trails, but this is not always the case. The study says just the opposite. They want a nice hotel, a nice pool, and nice amenities after a hard day on the trails.”

While area leaders certainly can not force local entrepreneurs to develop such accommodations, they must remain aggressive toward the cause. And this includes actively working to market and attract potential hotel and motel chains while also aggressively working with local entrepreneurs who might be willing to develop such facilities.

And one thing state lawmakers can do is help to secure funding for a critical feasibility study for the proposed campground development at Pinnacle Rock State Park. The park itself is strategically located midway between the trailhead facility in Bramwell and the Bluewell community. It’s also in close proximity to the Indian Ridge segment of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in neighboring McDowell County.

Such a campground facility, and other related upgrades, to Pinnacle Rock State Park could help spur economic growth while encouraging more visitors to spend their tourism dollars in the region, Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer, correctly noted last week.

The lack of necessary lodging and camping facilities, and related amenities, is still a problem across the seven-county Hatfield-McCoy Trail system. While some progress has been made, including right here in Mercer County, there is clearly much more work that has to be done — as evidenced by the findings of the recent Senate Finance Committee study.

No stone should be left unturned by area officials when it comes to attracting, marketing and securing additional lodging facilities for visitors to our region. This includes finding a hotel for downtown Bluefield, and securing funding to develop urgently needed campground facilities at Pinnacle Rock State Park.

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