CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislation to allow for the expansion of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system advanced Thursday in the legislature. The bill won approval in the Senate Judiciary Committee and was reported to the full Senate.

The bill adds five central West Virginia counties to the Hatfield-McCoy System. Those are Braxton, Clay, Fayette, Nicholas, and Webster. The aim of the legislation will be development of off-road ATV trails in those counties.

“They have spent in the neighborhood of a quarter Million dollars and five years organizing themselves,” said Hatfield McCoy Trails General Counsel Harry Shaffer. “They’ve been carefully studying the feasibility of this system.”

The due diligence included consultation with the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System’s governing board. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Shaffer about the potential for the new counties and whether it would create competition for the existing trails in southern West Virginia, but he explained the bill meets with their blessing.

“We support a targeted, strategic expansion of the trail system,” said Shaffer. “These five counties have been working for five years toward that. We have been cooperating with them.”

But Shaffer also cautioned lawmakers there is a delicate balancing act when it comes to expansion of the trail system, one that could reach a point of diminishing returns if it’s not carefully planned. Shaffer said in discussions with other tourism industries like whitewater rafting and skiing, they have learned there are only so many tourists who will come to West Virginia to participate. Accommodating those interested without saturating the market is the key to success according to Shaffer.

“There is a law of diminishing returns. There’s definitely a limit,” Shaffer offered. “If they get on their feet, and we hope they do and we will help them do that in every way we can, then perhaps another study and targeted expansion will be warranted.”

The measure includes several changes to the law including membership on the Hatfield-McCoy Trails governing board to reflect the new counties and procedures for representation. The House has already approved the bill which is now before the full Senate.

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