Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 11, 2014

Pocahontas Trail: Positive impact on communities

ANNE ELGIN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BRAMWELL — Memorial Day weekend will be a time to honor the contributions and sacrifices veterans have made for their country, but it will also be the second anniversary of Mercer County’s new tourism venue.

May 25 will be the second anniversary of the Pocahontas Trail, the branch of the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail that extends into Mercer County. Bramwell, Bluewell, and other parts of the county have been seeing more visitors and economic growth since the new trail opened.

“It’s very good,” Bramwell Mayor Louise Stoker said of the trail’s impact. “We will be doing something to celebrate that. That happens to be Memorial Day weekend.”

Since the opening, new businesses have opened in Bramwell’s downtown along with new options for lodging.

“It has been an exciting two years,” Stoker said. “On Fridays and Saturdays, we have seen life here. I’ve seen an increase, of course, in travelers coming to visit Bramwell, but also an increase for existing businesses, and now there are new businesses that have opened in these two years.”

There are new places for ATV riders to stay while visiting Mercer County.

“I know there are many, many places for them to stay overnight, and we have three very busy food establishments here in town,” Stoker said.

Along U.S. Route 52 in nearby Bluewell, local businesses are seeing more activity and residents are seeing a renewed pride in the community, said local businessperson Skip Crane.

“Yes, I’m starting to see growth in Bluewell, more town pride, more pride in welcoming people to West Virginia and more pride in keeping roadways clean,” Crane said. “There’s been more effort in our end of the county in keeping things spruced up.”

Crane said he has seen new businesses such as a new lodging place and restaurant that recently had a “soft opening.” Residents are encouraging a local Kroger store to expand in light of the increasing traffic brought by ATV tourists. A new Family Dollar has opened, and other Bluewell-area businesses have expanded or are getting ready to expand.

“I just see a lot of economic activity, and it’s because of that ATV trail,” Crane said. “Last Thursday I was going to Bluefield and I went by the Burger King. There were 26 people there, and they were all from Maryland. I welcomed them to West Virginia, and one guy said that wasn’t all of them. There were 40 who were going to be here from Thursday to Sunday morning. That’s just one little iota, that’s just one little grain of sand, of what’s coming here. That’s just one thing.”

Jeffrey Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Trail System, said trail permit sales are “well over double” what they were during the Pocahontas Trail’s first year.

“We feel the Pocahontas Trail is going to be an integral part of our system,” Lusk said. “We’re excited. It’s going to be a great year for the Pocahontas Trail System and for Mercer County.”