By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Work on two new ATV lodgings are underway, and while that’s good news, it still isn’t enough to meet the growing demand for rooms.
In May 2012, the Pocahontas Trail, a new branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, opened in Mercer County. ATV enthusiasts, both local and from across the nation, have rode the trail. Apartments, homes and even a former post office have been converted into ATV lodgings to meet the demand for accommodations. Work on more places to stay is underway.
Entrepreneurs creating the Coal Camp ATV Resort were invited to the Mercer County Commission to describe their future facility in the Bell Street area near Bramwell. The resort, which could open by spring 2014, includes long-term plans for 50 turn of the century cottages, a restaurant, and an ATV wash.
Meanwhile, another entrepreneur is creating ATV lodging in downtown Pocahontas, Va. Plans call for installing individual cabins and a Laundromat to serve ATV visitors.
ATV lodgings have opened in downtown Bramwell and near the town off U.S. Route 52. In Bluewell, more rooms have been made available and at least one more resort is under construction. Despite all this activity, there still are not enough rooms to go around, said Jeff Lusk, director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority. More lodging is needed in Mercer County.
“We desperately need it over that way,” Lusk said Thursday. “It’s going to be critical to the success of the Pocahontas Trail that more lodging comes in. The velocity of the opening of these places is not keeping up with the demand. We believe there is potential for many, many more lodging providers and hundreds of more beds on that system.”
Every time new beds become available, trail pass sales increase, and the influx of new riders soon exceeds the supply of lodging space, Lusk said.
“The existing lodging is not meeting the demand of the riders,” he stated. “There are still riders who cannot visit the Hatfield-McCoy Trail due to their inability to find a place to stay.”
For example, this year has seen a 13 percent increase in permit sales, but there has not been a 13 percent increase in local lodging to match it, Lusk said. How fast the Pocahontas Trail grows is not tied to Hatfield-McCoy Trail advertising, but in entrepreneurs developing more capacity.
“More people want to come, but those people are finding it difficult to find a place to stay,” Lusk said.
People who have invested in lodging have seen success, said Bramwell Mayor Louise Stoker. The former Bramwell High School is now the Bramwell High School ATV Lodge. A former post office near the Route 52 turnoff to Bramwell now houses ATV accommodations, and other houses and apartments have been made available in and near the town.
Marie Blackwell, executive director of the Mercer County Convention, said occupancy numbers have increased since the Pocahontas Trail opened in May 2012.
“Yes, yes, our numbers have been up. I can’t say it’s all due to ATVs, but that trail has definitely brought visitors into the area,” Blackwell said.
Many of the people who are going into the lodging business are from outside the Mercer County area, Blackwell said.
“A lot of the investors are outside investors who have visited the trail, and it spiked their interest,” she said.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com