The Hatfield-McCoy Trail is on a roll. The seven-county off-road ATV system ended the year 2019 with yet another ridership record.
Jeff Lusk, the executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority, was hoping to end 2019 with 55,000 trail ridership permits being sold. Not only did the authority meet that number, it also exceeded it.
The number of ridership permits sold on the trail in 2019 topped off at 56,258. That’s more than 1,200 permits sold over initial projections for the year. It also reflected a 12.5 percent growth rate for the trail system over 2018.
“We sold 84 percent of our permits to non-residents, people from outside the area, so we’re really excited,” Lusk told the Daily Telegraph last week. “Our goal for this year was 55,000, which we said was a milestone for us, and we exceeded that by 1,258 permits.”
We aren’t surprised by the news. With each passing week, we see more and more ATV tourists hauling their machines into the region. And lately, it’s been hard to avoid seeing ATV riders along U.S. Route 52, particularly in the Bluewell and Bramwell communities.
The year 2020 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Hatfield-McCoy system, which is operational in both Mercer and McDowell counties, and four other counties.
Lusk is hoping to see more than 60,000 ridership permits sold this year, a goal that appears feasible.
“We’re going to keep the bar set really high and we’re going to try and exceed 60,000,” Lusk stated. “It’s all going to be contingent on entrepreneurial investment. If we don’t have more lodging developed in the development area, we’re not going to hit that goal.”
To reach 60,000 ridership permits, Lusk says the region will need more cabins, campgrounds, full hotels and RV sites developed around the trails.
“It is the only way we can grow our ridership,” he said. “It’s a capacity issue and that’s the only way we can grow. First, expansion of our existing lodging is the easiest way to grow, so we hope those guys will consider expanding.”
The success of the Hatfield-McCoy system speaks to the longevity of the region’s ATV tourism engine. It’s now one of the area’s largest selling points to out-of-town visitors.
But in order to keep growing, we will need to see additional lodging facilities and related accommodations developed for the ATV tourists. This includes more restaurants in the Bluefield, Brushfork, Bluewell and Bramwell areas to serve the out-of-town visitors. Specialty shops, and other unique attractions that appeal to both tourists and local residents, also are urgently needed along the path of the trail system.
With hope, additional entrepreneurs, small-business owners and others will step forward this year to help meet this great need.
We anticipate another big year in 2020 for the ATV trail system.