ATV tourism: Welcomed growth for region

Things are certainly looking up for the region as it relates to ATV tourism growth. In just the past two weeks, several announcements have been made regarding projects that will benefit both the Hatfield-McCoy Trail and the Spearhead Trail.

The biggest news came out of Bluewell with the opening of the new Buffalo Trail Visitors Center on U.S. Route 52 at the Lorton Lick Road intersection. As its name implies, the private development is intended to serve as a welcome center for ATV visitors to the region who are coming in to ride the Hatfield-McCoy Trail in Mercer and McDowell counties, as well as the new Spearhead Trail in Tazewell County.

Visitors to the region who are traveling U.S. Route 52 can’t miss the new center. There is a giant inflatable buffalo sitting on top of the facility. The buffalo is about 10-feet tall and 15-feet long. Seth Peters, owner of the nearby Buffalo Trail ATV resort on Lorton Lick Road, converted the old service station along Route 52 into the new visitors center.

The site provides a number of services to ATV riders. For example, visitors can stop and fill their ice chests with free ice and fill their water bottles with free water or purchase soft drinks and snacks from vending machines on site. A toy museum is being developed in the service bay area of the former service station, and brochures also will be available for visitors to pick up at the site, along with public restrooms. Current plans call for having the facility staffed 24 hours a day.

But the Buffalo Trail Visitors Center isn’t to be confused with the still planned official Hatfield-McCoy Trail Trailhead/Visitors Center. That project is expected to be under construction in early 2016. But a committee appointed by the Mercer County Commission to select a site for the trailhead/visitors center is still mulling over a location. Two sites are being considered. One site is on Coaldale Mountain near Bramwell and another is on Simmons River Road past the entrance of Montcalm High School. The committee will meet again on Oct. 20, and a decision is expected to be finalized in time for the next meeting of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail authority board in November, according to committee member and county commissioner Gene Buckner.

With hope, the committee members can decide on a site soon so that work can begin on the official trailhead site.

In neighboring Tazewell County, officials confirmed Monday that a ground-breaking ceremony will be held Wednesday on a new $800,000 project that will provide lodging for both the Spearhead Trail system and the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. The new Trailhead ATV Resort is being developed in the Boissevain community. It will have 13 cabins, seven RV sites, a laundry facility and a store. The facility is expected to be open in November.

All of these projects are welcomed, and will certainly help when it comes to meeting the various needs of ATV visitors to our region. We applaud all of those entrepreneurs who are stepping up to meet the needs of these out-of-town riders.