Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 11, 2012

Spearhead Trail — Tazewell eyes 2013 opening

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— The long wait for the opening of the new Spearhead Trail project in Southwest Virginia continues. But the news is improving. Tazewell County officials are now hoping — in a best-case scenario — to have the first trail system under construction by the spring of 2013.

Approximately 53 miles of trail have already been mapped in the Pocahontas area, and could be constructed in six to eight months. However, land agreements vital to the project are still holding it up. Tazewell County Administrator Jim Spencer says the project has been in a holding pattern for about a year. However, he is cautiously optimistic that a final agreement will be reached soon allowing the construction to begin.

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 is proposed 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 connection 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.

The story is very similar for the neighboring Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in southern West Virginia. The Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Authority was created by the West Virginia Legislature more than a decade ago for the purpose of creating a new economic development and tourism tool for nine southern West Virginia counties. To date, more than 600 miles of off-road trails have been developed in southern West Virginia, including the new Pocahontas Trail segment in Bramwell.

Spencer says local officials, and the regional trail authority, are still waiting on two agreements before construction can begin. The first is from the state and the second is with a private land owner. He says county officials are getting closer to an agreement with the state, which should help to expedite an agreement with the private land owner as well.

Spencer said under a best-case scenario, the agreements needed for the Spearhead Trail would be signed this winter allowing for construction of the trails to begin in the spring of 2013.

“I would love nothing more than to be under construction on the trail in the spring,” Spencer said. “I am hoping to have an agreement with the state by the end of December, though we are sort of at their mercy. The county has really been pushing this along with the Spearhead Trail group. This is a unique project. I doubt there are many places where someone wanted to develop an ATV trail on state-owned property that also has a prison occupying it.”

It is our hope, too, that the remaining land agreements can be resolved soon. 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.