MAN, W.Va. — The body with oversight of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System in southern West Virginia is applauding Gov. Jim Justice’s veto of Senate Bill 28. The legislation would have allowed for unlimited development of motorized trail systems throughout West Virginia.
Hatfield-McCoy Trail System Executive Director Jeffrey Lusk said they don’t fear competition but are more fearful of dilution.
“Certainly there is room in West Virginia for other off road vehicle trail systems to open up,” Lusk told MetroNews. “What we think is any expansion should be done in a very thoughtful manner where we bring on one new system at a time.”
Building trails for the sake of building trails runs counter to the main mission of the Hatfield-McCoy or other public trail systems which is economic development according to Lusk and members of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreational Authority.
“For folks to make investments, you have to have a certain density of riders,” Lusk explained. “If you want an entrepreneur to put in a restaurant, lodge, or campground then they’ve got to be guaranteed a certain number of riders to make those businesses cash flow.”
Lusk fears the unregulated opening of vast numbers of similar trails in West Virginia will dilute the market and cause businesses which have made investments in infrastructure surrounding the Hatfield-McCoy or any other regional trail system unprofitable.
Lusk and his staff have been working closely with a regional group in central West Virginia interested in opening a similar system in a five county region similar to the Hatfield-McCoy system in the southern coalfields. He believes they have the right approach and right idea and probably should be the next system to get the state’s blessing.
“We certainly support new systems opening,” he said. “I really believe the one there in Central West Virginia will be successful. The folks working on it are doing a great job. We just think it needs to be done in a methodical manner where we choose a geographic area, open up a system there, gauge the success of that system, the if it’s succeeding and growing let’s go look at the next area.”
The proposed regional trail system in central West Virginia includes a proposed trail system for Braxton, Clay, Fayette, Nicholas, and Webster counties.