Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 13, 2013

Funding boost — Grant will advance Spearhead Trail

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— A $100,000 funding boost announced last week for the Spearhead Trail system should help to get the long-planned project on a fast track toward construction.

The funding is coming from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Recreational Trails Program. Tazewell County Administrator Jim Spencer says the county Board of Supervisors applied for the grant two years ago to help finance the local segment of the Spearhead Trail system.

The Tazewell County portion of the seven-county trail will be developed in two phases over 53 miles. The grant from the Virginia Department of Conservation will fund the second phase of the project. Spencer says the county has received two additional grants, one from a private foundation and the other from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to help finance the first phase of construction.

The Spearhead Trail is a project of the Southwest Virginia Regional Recreational Authority. It is proposed to ultimately extend through seven Southwest Virginia counties. It also has the potential to connect or link with the existing Hatfield-McCoy Trail in southern West Virginia near the towns of Pocahontas and Bramwell creating a critical two-state tourism link for the region.

The Virginia General Assembly created the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority in 2009 for the purpose of overseeing the development and management of the seven-county Spearhead Trail system.

The intent was to create a new economic development and tourism engine for Southwest Virginia through the development of new trails for ATV riders, bikers, hikers, horseback riders, naturalists and others.

However, a few stumbling blocks remain before the actual construction can begin.

Spencer said the county and the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority recently attained an agreement with the state to build on land owned by the Department of Corrections, but officials still lack one land agreement. Negotiations are continuing with the unidentified landowner in question with the hope of reaching a deal soon so that construction on the trail system can begin this spring.

“I would love to be able to say construction will start in the spring, but we cannot start construction until we have that final agreement with the landowner,” Spencer said last week. “Some of the work will be rehabbing existing trails while some is constructing new trails. We will know more about how long it will take to construct the trail once we have the construction bid out. We want to construct this trail as quickly as possible.”

It is our hope too that an agreement can be reached soon with the landowner. Funding is now in place to construct both of the initial phases of the project in Tazewell County. But that work can’t begin until the final land agreement is reached.

It is critical that construction on the Spearhead Trail project get underway soon — particularly in light of the success we are seeing along the West Virginia-based Hatfield-McCoy Trail.

This is a great opportunity for regional cooperation between the two states, and a chance to increase the number of visitors to both trail systems in both Virginias.

After all, two trail systems located near the state line border of Virginia and West Virginia is better than one.