Gov. Jim Justice has set a date for the return of the Hatfield McCoy Trails.
The reopening of the off-road recreation will be May 21, the governor said, just prior to Memorial Day Weekend.
“I think it is an outdoor activity,” he said, referring to the space necessary for social distancing.
The trails were closed by executive order on March 21, so the reopening would occur after two months.
“But there’s going to be limitations and we’ll enforce the limitations as best we can,” Justice said.
That includes the use of facemasks or face shields, Justice said.
Riders will be prohibited from congregating along trails.
Justice said that would also include self-screening for covid symptoms, which may include cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or new loss of taste or smell.
Some people can test positively for the coronavirus without experiencing symptoms, though.
“Sick riders of any kind we’ll ask to remove and ask them to go home,” Justice said.
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) May 8, 2020
Justice said he recognizes people come from out-of-state to ride the trails. On Friday, he said he wants them to be careful about the spread of virus and respectful of West Virginians.
The trails stretch across hundreds of miles of Logan, Kanawha, Wyoming, McDowell, Mercer, Wayne, Lincoln, Mingo and Boone counties. They are managed by the Hatfield–McCoy Regional Recreation Authority.
The system attracts people who want to ride all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes.
“Anyone coming to our trails we expect you to respect us,” Justice said. “We’ll watch this and we’ll watch this like a hawk to the best of our abilities.”
Justice said the reopening of the trails is an example of the balance that West Virginia must strike to maintain economic activity while also safeguarding against spread of the coronavirus.
“I am happy about reopening the trails, but I am also concerned,” he said.
“Anything we do is a difficult decision. On this left hand you’ve got risk, on this right hand you’ve got the possibility of an out and out depression. Somewhere in between is where we’ve got to land.”
Justice was not ready to answer a similar question about the possibility of allowing the return of whitewater rafting this summer.
That is another popular West Virginia activity, drawing travelers and economic activity.
“All I can tell you is we’re watching it,” Justice said in response to a reporter’s question about whitewater rafting. “We’re trying to move forward as cautiously as we possibly can.”