Hatfield-McCoy Trails: A Trail System For Economic Development

June 2018 Powersport News Dave Halsey, NOHVCC contributing writer

The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System in West Virginia is one of the preeminent success stories in off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation. 

No other OHV trail system surpasses it in terms of 1) the scope of its partnership between government and private landowners, 2) the length, quality and variety of riding opportunities it created for the public, 3) its adherence to safety and 4) the economic impact and diversification that has resulted since its first trail opened in 2001.

Details on all these points were presented at the annual conference of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), held in New Hampshire in August 2017. The powerpoint presentation, titled “Hatfield-McCoy Trails: A Trail System For Economic Development,” is a great resource for anyone working to build an OHV trail system, and is available as a downloadable file from NOHVCC. 

The Hatfield~McCoy Trail System is a statutory corporation created in 1996 by the West Virginia Legislature to generate economic development through tourism in nine southern West Virginia counties. To understand the scope and scale of Hatfield-McCoy Trails success, consider these facts:

Partnerships Developed

- 92 license agreements with landowners

- Involves more than 250,00 acres, 100 percent privately owned

- Public corporation assumes liability

- Private owners retain ability to develop natural resources

Riding Opportunities

- 700 miles of trails open to ATVs, ROVs (side-by-sides), ORVs and dirt bikes

- Currently covers 7 trail systems in 5 counties

- 40,000 trail permits sold annually

- 85 percent of permits sold to riders from other states, totaling about $1.5 million in revenue

Dedication To Safety

- Helmets, protective eyewear and over-ankle footwear required

- Doubling up prohibited unless vehicle is built for two by manufacturer

- Group riding and communication devices recommended

Economic Impact and Diversification

- More than $20 million in economic impact in 2014, reflecting a 74 percent increase from 2006

- More than 100 businesses positively impacted

- 67 new lodging businesses

- Many towns have direct trail access

- 60 percent of visitors spend $250 or more per trip

- 95 percent of riders surveyed said they are “very likely” or “definitely” returning

More trails are coming to Hatfield-McCoy. The current goal is to have more than 1,000 miles of world-class, interconnected trails throughout southern West Virginia. Or, as described in the presentation: “The Disney World of ATV riding in the United States.”

The NOHVCC presentation includes a detailed history going back to 1991, changes to the WV state code in 2015 that recognized the economic impact of the trail system, outsourcing law enforcement and marketing, information on the vehicle types currently riding the trail systems, and much more.

To put the presentation in your OHV toolbox, download “Hatfield-McCoy Trails: A Trail System For Economic Development.” Go to www.nohvcc.org and tap on “Education,” scroll down to “Annual Conference” and choose “2017 Presentations” to see this report and others from the annual conference.

To learn more about the trails, permits and more information about the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, go to www.trailsheaven.com.

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