Why we travelled to the “Disney world of ATV riding in the US” to learn from our peers
The conflict between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky is the most famous of feuds in Appalachia. Cause of the feud has never been determined but, whatever the reason, it has given rise to numerous songs and stories. It’s also led to the development of an engaging brand for an outstanding trails network in West Virginia and Kentucky.
But a great brand only takes you so far.
As a group of delegates from Northern Ontario heard on a recent Tourism Northern Ontario Best Practices Mission to Southern West Virginia, it takes vision, determination and teamwork to create a world-class trails network and keep riders coming back for more.
With a vision of opening over 1,000 miles of world-class, interconnected trails, creating the “Disney World of ATV riding in the United States“, the Hatfield McCoy Trail System is an economic development project in Southern West Virginia utilizing tourism to promote entrepreneurship and job creation. The system is developed and managed by the Hatfield McCoy Regional Recreation Authority and was created to support the previously coal mining-dependent communities of the region.
The authority’s key goals are to diversify the economy, provide a positive economic impact in nine county project areas and create a culture of entrepreneurship based around new trail–related businesses.
The focus on economic development and entrepreneurship is paying off in a big way. Communities connected to the trails have enjoyed a new tourist economy that did not exist prior to the trails opening. Riders from over 50 states and 13 foreign countries have visited the trails. In 2017 45,297 riders used the trails, with over 85% being non-locals. Permit sales of $152,000 in year one have climbed to $1,839,482 in year 17 of operation. Diversification of the economy continues to grow with OHV rentals and guided tours being offered and accommodations being built or enhanced along with restaurants and retail. Connectors have given 11 towns direct trail access.
Can the successes of the Hatfield McCoy Trails be realized for snowmobiling and other trails tourism in Northern Ontario? It is a question that the delegates and others in tourism aim to answer.