Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 11, 2013

After all day on the trails, riders need a place to rest

By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BRAMWELL — Officials with the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority said the success of the Pocahontas Trail in Mercer County is dependent on more new lodging facilities being built between Bramwell and Bluefield.

Jeff Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Authority, said he would like to see more hotels, motels, inns and ATV resorts constructed between Exit 1 in Bluefield and Bramwell.

“We would love to have more facilities down there,” he said. “We have not had any announcements of new facilities down there, but we would love to hear about them. The biggest thing we face with developing that trail system is developing more lodging. We need more lodging in that corridor between Exit 1 and Bramwell. Any lodging we could get in that area would be fantastic.”

Lusk said he would like to see lodging for at least 200 tourists added within the town of Bramwell alone.

“We have had three new lodging developments created there in the past year,” Lusk said. “I do know we need more beds than we have. We are so glad for those people who have made the investments. We are so glad they are there and care enough to invest in this project. Using the town of Gilbert as an example, we have more than 200 beds within the city limits of Gilbert. We hope to have that much if not more success in Bramwell.”

Mayor Louise Stoker said two ATV resorts in the area have used the winter months as a time to expand their lodging.

“The man who already owns the Bramwell ATV Resort has purchased two more houses this winter down in that road and will be turning those into quarters for ATV traffic,” she said. “On the other end of the town toward Pocahontas, we have the Pocahontas ATV Resort and the owner has expanded that during the fall and winter months so there can be more people staying over by the time the spring season arrives.”

Stoker said several homes in the town have also been purchased.

“At this point, we have not any people coming in to open a business for spring,” Stoker said. “However, we have had several houses purchased by people coming here from ATV traffic. We have had three houses purchased in January, which is amazing for a small house like Bramwell. We have had a total of five houses purchased in the last few months. Two of those people purchased homes because of the trails.”

Stoker said the trail has continued to generate income locally, even during the off-season.

“It hasn’t even been a year since our soft opening last May,” Stoker said. “We are hoping this is a sign of what will be coming for us to this spring. Even during the heavy snow storms there have been riders on the trail. There are riders out on the trail as well speak. It’s been a great economic opportunity for everyone here and I hope it will continue to be.”

As the trail system covers nine counties, Lusk said it is up to local economic development leaders and city and county officials to develop new businesses and entrepreneurs.

“It is really a local economic development issue,” he said. “We rely on local chambers of commerce and development authorities to help develop these lodging opportunities. We create an environment for these businesses to be successful through promoting the trail system, but we look to local entities to promote their area to groom entrepreneurs for those local markets, to recruit hotels and restaurants. The Hatfield-McCoy system is so large it would be too much for us to do with all of our locations. Our success in Mercer County is contingent on businesspeople stepping up and putting this infrastructure in place. We cannot be successful if local entrepreneurs do not step up and take advantage of this opportunity. We would be willing to come to the area and talk with anyone about these business opportunities.”

Lusk said approximately 31,000 riders visit the nine Hatfield-McCoy counties in a single year with each rider staying at least three nights in the area.

“There are some great little restaurants that have opened up in the Bramwell area, and we are hoping to see them increasing their hours and becoming full-service restaurants,” Lusk said. “During the season, the traffic is going to be tremendous at those facilities. We are projecting system-wide to see 31,000 trail riders in all of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system and 80 percent of those are typically non-West Virginia residents or overnight guests who stay an average of three nights. That means around 84,000 visitor nights this year, which has helped more than 50 lodging ventures open up. There is great opportunity.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com쇓