Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 21, 2014

Opportunities abound for McDowell County as ATV trail comes in

WAR — One dream the late Mayor Tom Hatcher of War had was to see the Hatfield-McCoy Trail bring new opportunities to his community. That path to economic development, the upcoming Warrior Trail, is moving closer toward reality.

Once completed, the Warrior Trail will bring 80 to 100 new miles of ATV trails to McDowell County, said Jeffrey Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority.

“It will be connected to the town of War, the town of Gary and the city of Welch,” Lusk said. “It will be one of our larger systems when it’s completed.

The mapping process has been finished, and the resulting maps are being examined by the Pocahontas Land Company to see whether the proposed route is feasible, Lusk said. There is currently no estimate about when construction could begin.

“We’re still waiting for environmental clearance from the department of highways,” he said.

The authority must also wait for a study of any cultural or historic issues, such as determining whether the trail would go through any archeological sites, before funding is released.

“Once we get all of those completed, then we would be able to proceed with the trail system,” Lusk said. “All of those items are completely out of our hands. We have to wait for feedback.”

The project’s second phase will open the trail to the Twin Branch and Indian Ridge Trails, and later to the Pinnacle Creek Trail and the Pocahontas Trail in Mercer County.

Work on connecting the Warrior Trail to the rest of the Hatfield-McCoy system will begin once that new system is completed..

All of the necessary funding is now in place for the $200,000 project. The McDowell County Commission provided $37,500 to match funding from other sources, said Gordon Lambert, county commission president.

To help the project, the McDowell County Board of Education has donated the old Excelsior School site near War to the county commission so it can be used for a trailhead facility, Lambert said. The county will lease the property to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail authority for a dollar a year.

Lambert urged entrepreneurs to take advantage of the future ATV trail by creating the lodging, restaurants, laundries and other services tourists will need.

“It will be tremendous if the people in the county take the initiative and get ready for the people who will be coming,” he said. “Cabins and places for them to stay, restaurants and things that go along with them.”

These new services need to be established before the Warrior Trail opens, he emphasized. Then visitors will speak about the facilities McDowell County had to offer instead of complaining about a lack of facilities.

“It’s important for people to get started right away,” he added.

The late Mayor Tom Hatcher of War, Manuel Collins of the War City Council, and others have worked for years to bring the ATV trail to their part of the county, Lambert said.

Hatcher was the person who formed the War ATV/UTV Committee, said Earl Crigger, the committee’s chairman. “After he passed on, we decided to run ahead with his ideas and everything, and make it a reality. All he wanted was the best for War. We’re trying to realize his dream.”

War has Berwind Lake, the Dry Fork River, and other areas to build upon before ATV tourist begin to arrive, he said.

“We feel neglected now, and I think we have to take it upon ourselves to do to things,” Crigger said.

The Warrior Trail could bring a lot of revenue into the city of War and McDowell County, Crigger said. Now is a good time to take advantage of the possibilities.

“People have an opportunity to open up businesses like restaurants, car washes, laundries and different things that have been neglected over the years,” he stated.

War has a sewer system, and having this infrastructure will help “tremendously” Crigger added.

People from outside War are showing interest in the city, Crigger said. One recent caller from Tazewell, Va., expressed interest in opening a hotel for ATV riders.

Crigger can be contacted at 304-875-3941.

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