Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 5, 2013

Gaining speed — Lodging increase welcomed

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Call it a mini housing boom. A critical need along the six-county Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in southern West Virginia is finally being met — at least in Mercer County.

In fact, property sales have increased in and around the Bramwell area since a branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system opened in 2012. Mayor Louise Stoker said buyers have been acquiring properties in her town that have been vacant for years. That’s good news for the town, and the trail system.

It’s also exactly what is needed to help grow the new Pocahontas Trail system. Hundreds of out-of-town visitors are traveling to Mercer County each weekend to ride the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. But they need a place to stay while in town. And the lodging need is still critical, not just in Mercer County, but across the six-county trail system. That includes McDowell County as well.

But entrepreneurs are taking note, and have been buying properties in the area at an encouraging pace, including the former Bramwell High School, which is being converted into an ATV lodge.

 Stoker says town hall continues to receive inquiries from potential buyers.

“Just this last week, we had another house open inside the town,” Stoker said. “There are 10 people staying there at that one house this weekend. And we just celebrated on the 25th the first anniversary of the Pocahontas Trail. We’ve seen a big change in the economy, yes.”

That’s excellent and long overdue news. The more lodging facilities that can be created, the better. It meets a critical need for the trail system, and is a great boon to the region’s still growing tourism economy.

And the good news extends beyond Bramwell. Just down U.S. Route 52, communities like Bluewell and Montcalm are seeing more ATV traffic and interest in property. Local volunteer Skip Crane said he recently counted more than 90 ATVs coming through Bluewell in a little more than an hour.

“We talk about it all the time,” Crane said of local property sales. “I think Mercer County is right now in the speculator stage. People from out of state are starting to buy property, and when locals catch on, it’s going to be too late. Property is being sold in Montcalm, and that’s been unheard of for years.”

The mini housing boom that we are currently seeing is a good start. But additional ATV lodging and housing sites are still needed, and will still be needed, for months to come. The ATV riders are already in town. If they are going to stay — and return and ride our trails again — they must have a place to spend the night. That’s the only way the trail system will continue to grow.

We urge all entrepreneurs — both local and out-of-town — to take advantage of this  tremendous opportunity now.