By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
POCAHONTAS, Va. —
The Spearhead Trail system could be open to ATV traffic by the end of the year in Tazewell County.
Tazewell County Administrator Jim Spencer said he is hoping to see construction begin on the section of the Spearhead Trail in the Pocahontas and Boissevain area by spring.
“It appears when the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority meets on Jan. 28, they will authorize their chairman to sign agreements with the state for the trail system,” Spencer said. “Once the agreement with the state is signed we can start building trails.”
Spencer said logging trails already existing in the area will aid in the construction of the trail system in Tazewell County.
“There is one other land owner we have to contract with and we are hoping by spring to start construction,” Spencer said. “Of the 53 trail routes we have mapped, some are old logging trails already mapped and some will be brand new. We will be talking with contractors to see how long it takes to get it done. We will be as aggressive as possible in getting that done.”
Chuck Riedhammer, executive director of the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA), said he would like to see at least part of the trail in Tazewell County open to riders by the end of the year.
“In Tazewell, we are wrapping up a long process with the Department of Corrections because part of the trail goes through their property in Pocahontas,” Riedhammer said. “We have gotten the mapping and surveys done. We are just signing the agreements and getting all of that taking care of. By spring, we are hoping to be out to bid and get the design going. There is some environmental mitigation we have to do as well. We are very conscientious when we do these trails. We don’t cut trees over a certain size and watch drainage, things of that nature. If things go well, we want to have at least a portion of the trail completed by the end of the year and open to the public. We plan for certain things, and if everything goes well we could have some of that trail open by this fall or the end of the year.”
Riedhammer said progress is also being made on the section of the Spearhead Trail in Buchanan County.
“We are working to get funding for the trail system,” he said. “We hope to open the system in 2014. We were up there last month to talk with them. The Buchanan County Board of Supervisors is working and refining their ordinance to allow ATVs on roadways. We want to be able to get ATVs from the trails to the commerce centers so people can shop, get gas, and set up camp sites or stay the night.”
Riedhammer said the goal is to make the Spearhead Trail system an economic engine for Southwest Virginia in the same way the Hatfield-McCoy Trails have stimulated local economies in southern West Virginia. When completed, the Spearhead Trail system should extend through seven Southwest Virginia counties and the independent city of Norton.
“You have a very successful model across the border in West Virginia called the Hatfield-McCoy Trails,” Riedhammer said. “One of the interesting things I have seen was actually in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. There was an ad for a real estate agency advertising proximity to the Hatfield-McCoy trails. It shows these trails are such an economic driver real estate agents are using them to advertise.”
Riedhammer said the trail system alone brings millions in dollars in revenue to West Virginia.
“Hatfield-McCoy generates $20 million in economic impact, and they are selling approximately 27,000 to 30,000 permits a year, which generates millions in revenue,” he said. “Even if we do half of that, it will be significant. We expect to be generating that much as soon as 2017. We are looking at 500 to 700 miles of trail system throughout the seven-county region. We are looking into equestrian trails and other things for the future, but we don’t want to get too far ahead. You have to take it one step ahead.”
In addition to bringing in revenues from permits, Riedhammer said the Spearhead Trail System has the potential to expand support businesses including restaurants and hotels in Southwest Virginia.
“Just like happened in West Virginia, we anticipate this will create jobs, really create opportunities for adventure tourism and entrepreneurs with ATV shops and repair, hotels, lodging and restaurants,” Riedhammer said. “In our case, we have some advantages in that. Virginia’s highway system is a little better and we have a lot of infrastructure. We have really been working on revitalizing our downtowns. In addition to this trail, people can take advantage of museums, the Crooked Road and all sorts of other tourism sites in the area.”
Though the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system has served as a model for the Spearhead Trail, Riedhammer said his goal is for the trails in Southwest Virginia to be the best.
“There is no real, safe and legal place to ride in Southwest Virginia, so we are leaking money to other states,” Riedhammer said. “We want a good place for our local people to ride. There is more demand than there are trail systems. We want to bring in a structured riding environment and to create a family friendly environment. We get calls every week asking when we will open, but it’s much more complex than people realize. You can’t just drive a bulldozer through the woods. There is a standard we want to meet, and we want ours to be the best.”
— Contact Kate Coil at firstname.lastname@example.org