In the spirit of the season

In the spirit of the season: TV show explores local ATV trails, old Lake Shawnee Amusement Park

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LAKE SHAWNEE — Producers of a television show which explores ATV trails across North America visited Mercer County this week to see more of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail and an abandoned amusement park with a haunted reputation.

Dirt Trax has shows featuring ATV trails and attractions, and one of them was the Pocahontas Trail, Mercer County’s branch of the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail. Last year, the Dirt Trax crew visited the local trail.

“We brought them to do another show for the Outdoor Channel,” Executive Director Jamie Null of the Mercer County Convention & Visitors Center said. “We told them the story of coming to and riding the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail during the fall season. We want people to see our fall colors. It’s really different when you’re in the mountains and surrounded by the reds and golds.”

A marketing grant with the Hatfield-McCoy Trail and the Appalachian Regional Commission’s marketing plan helped to fund the Dirt Trax visit, Null said. One goal is to show the Pocahontas Trail’s benefits and attractions to ATV enthuisiats living outside the region.

“We told the story about how the Pocahontas Trail on the Hatfield-McCoy Trail is family friendly, and we talked to the folks at the Mud Pit/Pocahontas Outfitters on Simmons River Road,” Null said.

“Their names are Brian and Donna Lowe. They took us all out on the trail and showed us its historic significance…where the company store once stood and where the old schoolhouse was. On the first day it was rainy, so it made for some great mud. We were pleased with that.”

The crew continued their visit Tuesday with the Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park. For years the old park with its rusting, vine covered Ferris wheel and other old rides has had a haunted reputation. The land was once a Native American burial ground, and it was the site of the Clay Massacre in 1783. Native Americans attacked the homestead and slew two children. A boy named Ezekiel was later burned at the stake. The children’s father, Michael Elezkiel, retaliated by tracking down and killing several Native Americans. There are also stories about two children who were killed in accidents at the park. Paranormal researchers are among the site’s visitors, and other tours are offered during Halloween and other occasions.

“We wanted people to know that if you come and ride the trails, there are other things to do in the county,” Null said.

The hope is that the new episode will air in both the United States and Canada during the fall of 2018, so shooting the show now will be a good way to tap into a paranormal or Halloween feel for a seasonal adventure, she added.

Last summer, Dirt Trax visited Mercer County and stayed at Buffalo Trail in Bluewell, Null stated. The resort has seen results this summer from that show.

“This is a really, really great marketing tool for us,” Null said.

Seth Peters, one of the owners of Buffalo Trail, said the resort has seen a huge influx in guests from Canada.

“We had two big groups this past weekend, one from Ontario and one from Toronto,” he recalled. “The guys from Ontario drove 23 hours each way, and the guys from Toronto were actually a little bit further away. They ended up flying to New Jersey and meeting some friends, and driving the rest of the way.”

Last year Buffalo Trail made up 10 minutes of the 30 minute Dirt Trax episode. That episode is now available on the resort’s website, Peters said. Hatfield-McCoy Trails has shot a 30 minute commercial which is played on the trail system’s website and at trade shows. Coverage for the television show and other media outlets have been helping publicize the local ATV trails.

“Oh, absolutely,” Peters said. “We’re seeing not only that, but lots of national coverage from different groups and different organizations.”


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