The five-county Spearhead Trail system in Southwest Virginia is delivering on its promise of tourism and economic development growth. Between its opening in 2013 through June of this year, the off-road ATV system has generated economic activity estimated at between $18.6 million and $21.8 million, trail officials announced last week.
The welcomed findings were part of a new economic impact study of the trail system funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.
The study estimated the total economic activity from the trail system in 2016 at $9 million while also contributing to Virginia’s gross domestic product by $5.3 million. Projections of total economic activity for the current fiscal year are estimated at $15.2 million supporting 168 full-time jobs with a projected increase to $22.2 million and 250 full-time jobs by 2019.
In Tazewell County, the Spearhead Trail system is located near Pocahontas, and is ranked as one of the county’s top five tourism draws, according to Tazewell County Economic Development Director David Woodard. The other top draws include the Back of the Dragon motorcycle route near Tazewell, historic Burkes Garden and the Clinch River.
“The Spearhead Trail is one of the things in Tazewell County where we can take you and show you businesses that exist because of Spearhead Trails,” Woodard said.
Continued business growth along the trail system is critical toward meeting the lodging, food and related accommodation needs of the out-of-town visitors, many of whom ride both the Spearhead Trail and the neighboring Hatfield-McCoy Trail system while in the region.
The Spearhead system, which also is operational in neighboring Buchanan County, is currently composed of 400 miles of ATV and multi-use trails. The new study found that the total economic activity from the five county trails have supported $528,000 in state and local taxes. That tax revenue is expected to exceed $1.5 million by 2019, the study found.
When out-of-town visitors are in our region riding the ATV trails, the hope is that they will spend the night at local lodging facilities. The new study found that overnight travelers currently take an average of five trips per year spending 3.6 days in counties where the trail system is located. They travel in groups with an average travel party size of 3.1 persons spending $262 per person.
“The development of the Spearhead Trails is the perfect example of how new tourism products can breathe new life into our communities through jobs, tax revenue, and economic revitalization,” Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation, said. “Tourism is a critical component of Virginia’s economy, and the Spearhead Trails are an important part of that story.”
We agree. And we are pleased with the findings of the new economic impact study. As is the case with the neighboring Hatfield-McCoy Trail system, the Spearhead Trail also is a success story for our region. And there is plenty of room for additional growth in the months and years ahead.