The town of Gilbert in Mingo County and the town of Man in Logan County have benefited from ATV trails there. Where coal trucks once dominated state roads through those communities, ATVs are now a common sight. Lodging and food service businesses have sprung up to service the thousands of in-state and out-of-state visitors who enjoy multi-day getaways to those areas.
Communities in southern Wayne County could have reaped the same economic boost had the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System decided to expand into that area. But the people who live there said the costs outweighed the benefits, so the trail system announced this week it will look to develop trails elsewhere in southern West Virginia.
The trail system was established by the Legislature as a public corporation and instrumentality of government to manage off-road trails in southern West Virginia as a way to promote entrepreneurship and job creation in its 14-county region.
The East Lynn trail system was proposed by the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to solve a problem it was having with illegal trail riding at the East Lynn Wildlife Management Area. The property is owned by the Corps but is leased to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources as a public hunting area. By law, no off-road riding is permitted on a wildlife management area, but efforts to patrol the property have been ineffective and the level of self-described “outlaw riding” has grown beyond what the DNR has the resources to handle.
The plans for making the area part of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails would have meant marking about 43 miles of trails and cutting off about 116 miles of trails currently being used.
Some trails set to be decommissioned if the plan were to have gone through would cut off access to a few cemeteries, and there would be no access by ATV or other recreational vehicle to the East Lynn Lake. The plan also would have required “outlaw riders” to buy permits to ride fewer miles of trail legally.
The public comment period for the proposal concluded last week.
“It was made very clear that most who responded in some way to bringing the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system to East Lynn were opposed,” Jeff Lusk, the system’s executive director said. “We have to listen to what the people and communities want, and it was abundantly clear we were not wanted in this area.”
Lusk said the system has more than 20 other expansion projects, so it will focus more on those now.
It’s a shame this was an either-or decision and no compromise could be reached. Maybe in a few years something can change. ATV tourism is an important part of the southern West Virginia economy and should not be dismissed out of hand.