Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The region’s newest and biggest tourism attraction is expanding again — this time in McDowell County. That’s good news for the area as it means more out-of-town visitors, and more tourism dollars, will soon be rolling into the region.
A new 80-mile segment of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail is being developed between the cities of Gary, War and Welch, according to Jeff Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority. The new trail system is in addition to the existing Indian Ridge Trail in McDowell County, which also connects with the new Pocahontas Trail in Mercer County.
Lusk said city officials and concerned citizens in War, as well as members of the McDowell County Commission, recently approached the trail authority with the idea of building the new trail system. The proposed stand-alone system will extend 80 miles while connecting the cities of War, Gary and Welch.
“It will be a stand-alone system the day it opens but we eventually hope to connect it to our Indian Ridge system, which runs outside the town of Northfork,” Lusk said. “The support we have received from the town of War and the county commission has been fantastic. They are both a great help in getting this project done.”
Many of the existing trails are already in place, which should help to expedite construction of the new system. The trail authority is already working to attain grant funding, and right-of-way agreements, in preparation for construction.
“We have also been successful in getting grants to improve the system,” Lusk adds. “We have to get landowner agreements signed and a notice to proceed with our grants, but we are optimistic we will be able to develop it. This will be a great system. We haven’t chosen a name yet, but it will have a unique name for that trail system. Naming the system is one of the last things we do and it will make it readily recognizable for that geographic area.”
Once the new system is complete, McDowell County will have two trail systems. Logan and Mingo counties also currently house two trail systems. And as correctly noted by Lusk, the more communities that are connected by trail systems, the more opportunities there are for expansion for entrepreneurs, and economic development and tourism growth for the connected communities.
Two trails also means more visitors to the area. Riders will come to a particular location because they have multiple options. And once the trails are interconnected, the experience is further enhanced creating a multi-day adventure for the out-of-town visitors.
We welcome the announcement of a second trail system for McDowell County, and we applaud the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority for their willingness to expand the regional trail system. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail has been a tremendous success story for southern West Virginia. And we are certainly glad to see its continued growth.
The new stand-alone system should provide a tremendous tourism and economic development boon to the cities of War, Welch and Gary. It’s a win-win for McDowell County, and the region as a whole.