Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 12, 2012

Officials in Tazewell County looking forward to breaking ground on ATV trail system

POCAHONTAS, Va. — With high hopes for the future, trail and Tazewell County officials are looking forward to breaking ground on the Spearhead Trail system some time this year.

Chuck Riedhammer, the newly appointed executive director of the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA), said he sees great potential for the trail system in Pocahontas and Tazewell County at large.

“We are coming on board to be the steward of that and are going to be working on the land use agreements with Pocahontas, Va.,” Riedhammer said. “My involvement is sort of the contact for securing the land and liability insurance so we can have safe trails. I am very positive about the upcoming meetings and we are moving forward. I am hoping we can start construction in a relatively short period. We had a very positive meeting with Pocahontas Land and we are moving forward. Our function as an organization is great because we work between the community and the landowners and promote land management. We let the counties invest in the trails since they reap the benefits from the tax dollars, tourism dollars and people coming in to use the business. As far as Spearhead Trail, we are very impressed with Tazewell County. They are setting the pace for the rest of our counties to follow.”

Riedhammer said he hopes to see the Spearhead Trail system reinvigorate the Pocahontas area.

“Personally and professionally, I am enamored with Pocahontas, and I am one of those people who walks into that town and sees potential for it to come back in a great, quaint way that will bring people and jobs into the community,” Riedhammer said. “I see Pocahontas going the same way as Hatfield-McCoy Trails in West Virginia. We are going to have better lodging and roads and opportunities. I am seeing cabins, bed and breakfasts and restaurants and a great development for this community. It has a great energy about it and is in a beautiful location.”

“We have met with officials — including Chuck Riedhammer — with the trail in Richmond and appeared before the SRRA Board and talked about the trail and how it is going,” Tazewell County Administrator Jim Spencer said. “We took Chuck (Riedhammer) around Pocahontas and where it would be and how the town of Pocahontas would be connected to the trail through a community connector. A community connector is basically how you connect the community to the trail. The town of Pocahontas will have an access point to the trail through this community connector. We took him around the Pocahontas and Boissevain area as well as Bramwell and showed them what they’ve done. Mr. Riedhammer said he was very excited about the potential of the trail in Pocahontas. We are glad he is on board.”

Spencer said the next step for Tazewell County is the process of hiring a contractor to build the trail system.

“On our end, we are working on an advertisement to get contractors to bid on building the trail for us,” Spencer said. “I would love nothing more than to be under construction this spring, but we don’t control that. We cannot start construction until we have agreements in place with the two landowners on the trail. SRRA will be the one’s getting the agreements.”

According to Spencer, there is good potential for extending the trail throughout Tazewell County once the sections in Pocahontas and Boissevain are completed.

“What we have mapped is broken up into two phases or about 53 miles,” Spencer said. “The first phase is about 30 miles and the second is about 23 miles in the Pocahontas and Boissevain area. That is just the first part of what we have mapped so far. There is the possiblity to expand that trail even further to Horsepen, Bandy and even Jewell Ridge. Our ultimate plan is to expand the trail system throughout Tazewell County. We are modeling this after the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, and West Virginia has done a very good job with its trail system. I see nothing but great things happening.”

When construction on the trail is complete, Spencer said the county will hand it over to SRRA to administer.

“Most people may not realize that the county paid for the mapping to get the trails to this point,” Spencer said. “Our goal was never to operate the trails. Our goal is to get them constructed and then turn them over to SRRA to operate. SRRA has the same power to operate the trail through the Virginia legislature. Our goal was never to operate the trail but for SRRA to operate this trail. We haven’t changed anything, but SRRA has more powers given to them by the General Assembly to operate the trail system which was why they were created.”

Northern District Supervisor Dr. Tom Brewster said the trail system will be a large benefit to his district.

“Eventually, the trail is supposed to extend throughout Southwest Virginia,” he said. “It largely impacts the Northern District. I know the trails have been mapped out for ATV traffic and are posted on the web site for the Pocahontas area. As far as future destinations and sites, we are continuing to discuss that.”

For their part, Brewster said the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors is looking into regulations and ordinances that would encourage ATV traffic on the trails.

“We are looking at opening up some of our roads to ATV traffic to connect that ATV traffic to roads in Pocahontas and things of that nature,” he said. “The idea is to try and connect our ATV traffic to give them access to the trails. In all likelihood, this will be based on trying to draw ATV traffic area into the trails, not letting people drive up and down the road on ATVs. This is specifically to connect trail traffic to the town and the town requested this.”

 — Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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