Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 6, 2012

Tazewell official optimistic about spring construction of trail system

By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

POCAHONTAS, Va. — A new ATV trail system could be open in Tazewell County sometime next year if necessary contracts are signed in the coming months.

Tazewell County Administrator Jim Spencer said plans for the Spearhead Trail in the Pocahontas-Boissevain area have been in a holding pattern for more than a year, but he is optimistic the final agreements needed to start construction on the trail system will be signed soon.

“We have been in the same place for about a year-and-a-half,” Spencer said. “We have to have two agreements to start construction. One is from the state and the other is from a private land company. We are getting closer to getting the state agreement, which will hopefully put us closer to getting that private company’s permission.”

Spencer said in 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 of 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 were someone wanted to develop an ATV trail on state-owned property that also has a prison occupying it.”

Approximately 53 miles of trail are already planned for the area, which could take six to eight months to complete.

“We are hoping to get 53 miles of trail done in the Pocahontas and Boissevain areas,” Spencer said. “Construction depends a lot on the time of year, but once we receive permission to go, I am hoping to have the trail done in six to eight months, if not sooner. We want that done as quickly as we can. I would like to see the trail open to traffic next year.”

Old trails and logging roads already in the area could expedite construction of the trail system, Spencer said.

“I want us to be open and staffed as fast as we can,” Spencer said. “There are old trails that were used to access different properties already there, so there aren’t all new constructions we have to do. There are old logging roads we can dress up. I would like to see people riding next summer. However, that is a very aggressive schedule. We are doing everything we can to make that a reality.”

Spencer said the money needed to start construction on the trail has already been secured through grants.

“We received grant money a few years ago to start the trail,” he said. “We have already received $100,000 worth of grants. Part of that is from a local foundation and part is from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to construct the trail. We have another grant we have applied for through the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. That grant is pending to help with additional parts of the trail.”

Spencer said the sooner the trail system is open the sooner it can begin having a positive economic impact on Tazewell County.

“Tourism and recreation are a vital part of economic development,” Spencer said. “This is one of the first of many trails we want to see developed in many areas throughout the county like Jewell Ridge and the Richlands area. Two trails can feed off of each other. Someone can ride in Bramwell and then come back and ride in the Pocahontas area. Ultimately, we need to provide them opportunities to spend money when they come into this area.”

Eventually, Spencer said Tazewell County will be able to cash in on the Spearhead Trail in the same way their neighbors to the north have benefited from the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system.

“We see many trails developed throughout the county,” Spencer said. “West Virginia has done an excellent job with their trail systems. We have met with their folks and we think they can provide a great model for us.”

 — Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com쇓