Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 25, 2012

Community connector: Hatfield-McCoy link vital for Matoaka


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Now that the Hatfield-McCoy Trail is up and running in Bramwell, renewed focus is being placed on the need to develop a community connector for the town of Matoaka.

While the trailhead itself will remain in Bramwell, a community connector would provide a link between the trail system and communities that offer lodging, sell gasoline, and provide food and services to visiting ATV riders.

And town officials in Matoaka are still working toward the goal of securing such a connector route.

“We’ve been working very hard in the town of Matoaka to get ready for it,” Matoaka Mayor Todd Colonna said last week. “We now have a diner, a grocery with a deli, the Mountain Music place, and the gas station is reopening. Everything we’ve been asked for, we’re accomplishing.”

Colonna says some residents have properties in the town that could be converted into lodging. However, he says this cannot happen until the town has the actual trail connection. There are also locations in town suitable for recreational vehicles and cabins, according to Colonna.

Finding a safe route has been the main obstacle to date in getting Matoaka a trail connection, according to John Fekete, deputy executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority. The properties along the possible routes are the scenes of businesses such as coal mining, logging or natural gas. Vacant property is bonded, and cannot be used until those bonds are released, Fekete said.

“The number one priority is to create a safe route. You don’t want to run down Route 52 for 10 miles,” Fekete said last week. “The mayor has been coming to our board meetings. He has worked hard to get this for his community. We certainly want to work with him and we’re 100 percent behind him.”

It is our hope that a suitable community connector site can be found for the town of Matoaka. We know town officials, and residents in Matoaka, have been working hard to prepare for the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. It is vital that a community connector be established with the town so that Matoaka can also see some of the same benefits the town of Bramwell is already experiencing from the trail system.

Even though the trailhead facility — a former school — has not yet opened, the town of Bramwell is already reaping tourism benefits from the trail system. The town has had visitors to ride the trails from locations as far away as Alaska, Canada, New Hampshire, Vermont and Key West, Fla., according to Bramwell Mayor Louise Stoker.

The more community connectors that can be established with towns like Bramwell and Matoaka, the better. This helps to ensure that the out-of-town visitors will also support local restaurants, stores, attractions and other offerings. These new tourism dollars are critical to the region as a whole.

We wish the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority, and the town of Matoaka, the best of luck in getting this second — and critically needed — community connector up and running for the Matoaka area.