By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It’s still the biggest stumbling block facing the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in Mercer County. And Jeff Lusk is at a loss to explain why when faced with questions from out-of-town visitors.
“We just don’t have enough lodging,” Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority, said. “We are growing so quickly. So that is really the problem we’ve had. It (lodging) is one of the number one calls we field in our office. Not the quality — just the capacity. Because a lot of people come here and can’t find a place to stay. It really exasperates our problems.”
Although a number of entrepreneurs have stepped up to develop smaller lodging facilities — along with a much larger ATV resort being planned at the old Bramwell High School — there still isn’t enough lodging sites within close proximity to the Pocahontas Trail system to meet the demand.
“We’ve added approximately 75 to 100 beds that were not here prior to us opening up (in Mercer County),” Lusk said. “But I see the need for more than double of that. Anybody that opens up a facility to provide lodging for trail riders helps us out. Every single bed is needed. But our supply and demand curve is all out of whack. We really had hoped it (lodging facilities in Mercer County) would have come a lot faster.”
Adding to the problem is the lack of a campgrounds or campsites in Mercer County. In neighboring McDowell County, the Ashland Resort has been proven to be a big draw for riders along the Indian Ridge trail segment.
Lusk said a new hotel or motel along the trail — or even in Bluefield — would be a tremendous help.
“I think the EDA, and the chambers and others are really trying to work and help us out,” Lusk said. “But the key is we have to have some entrepreneur interest. There has to be people who want to own a lodging business. A motel or hotel, or a large branded property, would go a long ways in alleviating the demand.”
Lusk said he is hopeful that Mercer County officials will continue to work toward finding and attracting new lodging facilities near the trail.
“This is low hanging fruit for these guys,” Lusk said. “If the counties wanted to have some success, we could really have some success and put some people to work. We’ve got a lot to offer here. Princeton, Bluefield and Mercer County has a lot to offer tourists.”
— Contact Charles Owens at email@example.com