By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
An old high school will soon become a refuge for ATV riders and their families.
Hoping to address one of the greatest needs facing the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system, plans are now underway to convert the old Bramwell High School into a new ATV resort and lodge. The old school was officially purchased by a group of ATV riders last week.
“I’m a part of a group of guys — 10 of us who come down and ride the trail system each year,” Eric Dunham, of the Hedgesville community in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, said. “We had the brainstorm to buy (a structure). We came down to look at some houses and ran across the building.”
Dunham said the old school is now being called the Bramwell High School ATV Lodge.
“We think our first phase will be concentrated around the high school part and getting some rooms up and ready to go,” Dunham said. “It’s just going to have to be done in steps. As I get one room open I’m going to start filling that room.”
Dunham said extensive renovations will be needed to the old high school. But he hopes to have rooms ready for occupancy as quickly as possible.
“I would like to have it ready tomorrow, but today is my first day in town,” Dunham said last Thursday. “I just don’t know the extent until I get an electrician up to get the power back on. I would like to think I can have something up and going in two months.”
Dunham said the real estate agent told him the old school consists of approximately 85,000 square feet.
“But that is all four buildings together — the gym, the office building and the high school together,” he said.
The new ATV resort and lodge is urgently needed, Bramwell Mayor Louise Stoker said.
Although the seven-county trail system has been a significant success story for southern West Virginia, its growth has been hampered by a lack of lodging facilities for out-of-town ATV riders. Stoker said the new ATV lodge will help.
“It will fill a need, and it will be available to people coming here on the first stop from the south,” Stoker said. “This is the first stop on I-77 after Ohio.”
Stoker said the old high school last operated as a K-5 school when it was closed in 2004.
“We are very excited about the new owners of the building,” Stoker said.
— Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org