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New Off-Road Park Offers New Adventure to ATV Riders


The popularity of ATV’s in West Virginia continues to grow.   The trend is also creating a greater need for places to ride those machines.   Those two facts are forging a new industry in West Virginia–off road parks.

The Hatfield-McCoy Trail was established several years ago as a quasi-state government agency.    However, the Burning Rock Off-Road Park in Raleigh County is the first private venture into the business and won’t likely be the last.

"We’ve got about eight-thousand acres that we’re working on," said owner/manager Brian Helmer. "Right now we’ve got 65 miles of trail and about 10 more miles of trails that we’re going to add in the next week or two.  We’re just going to continue to grow."

The trail system has several valuable components, not the least of which is accessibility.   The trail is only a short drive off the West Virginia Turnpike, even closer to the Coalfields Expressway, and has a number of lodging and restaurant opportunities nearby in Beckley.

The Burning Rock footprint is also situated on a single tract of contiguous land with a single land owner.  

"I’ve walked most of it.  I know a lot of it and there’s very few places I haven’t seen," said Helmer on a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors. "That’s one benefit is that we’ve got one piece of property that we can continue to utilize."

One might think the Burning Rock Trail would be a competitor with the nearby Hatfield-McCoy Trail System.  However, it’s very much the opposite.

"One of the things that makes West Virginia so great as a tourist destination is that there are absolutely so many different attractions for varied interests," said Jim Nestor who handles promotions for Burning Rock. "Certainly with ATV enthusiasts there is the Hatfield-McCoy and we’ve talked to those folks.  They’ve been supportive and we’ve been supportive of them as well.  Ultimately both are going to benefit.  All the communities of southern West Virginia are going to benefit from these types of attractions."

Trail systems are the perfect solution to the problem with post-mine land use.   However, the obstacle always standing in the way is corporate liability.   Large coal or land companies are fearful of the risk of a lawsuit if they endorse their land for use in activities that can be dangerous.    Helmer says they’ve been able to overcome that obstacle through a public/private partnership with the Raleigh County Commission.   The partnership allows the county to assume the liability and frees up the company to allow the land use.

The trails feature a variety of terrain that will attract riders of all stripes.   Helmer says so far there’s been a positive response.

"We’ve sold about a thousand permits since our soft opening on the Fourth of July," said Helmer. "That’s mostly local folks who heard about it through or word of mouth.  We’re really excited about what’s going to happen in the next few months.  We really think it’s going to take off."  

Helmer believes the interest will grow as they begin to open up their marketing to riders across West Virginia and in other states.   He says they also have plans for the creation of lodging and dining facilities and a trail store at the entrance to the trails.    Permits are $25 for West Virginia residents and $50 for out-of-state riders.  The permits are good until December 31st of the year in which they are purchased. 

The Burning Rock Off-Road Park grand opening is set for October 17-18.


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