Throughout southern West Virginia, there is a growing network of trail systems turning small tourism businesses into big business for our State’s fastest growing trade.
Anchored in our State’s abundance of natural resources and remarkable outdoor adventure environment, with our rich culture and important histories, our trail systems are weaving an economic tapestry, drawing visitors from around the globe.
As the trail systems grow and develop, interconnect one with the other, and even overlap, we build on our ability to attract longer, fuller visits from our out-of-state guests. And, with our biggest game changer, the thousands of Boy Scouts of America and their families and friends scheduled to arrive the summer of 2013, we are poised to showcase an incredible array of activities.
From established trails to new concepts in outdoor adventure, West Virginia’s scenic trails, highways, and byways provide a breathtaking experience of our State’s natural beauty and a unique and picturesque glimpse into our Nation’s history.
We are working to tie together a trail system in the New River Gorge that connects with the Boy Scouts of America’s Reserve in Fayette County. These scouts are not just visitors to West Virginia, they are here to help.
Nearly 2,000 members of (Scouting's) Order of the Arrow are building a stacked-loop mountain bike trail in the New River Gorge National River area. The Scouts will build 44 miles of bike trail and will re-vegetate damaged areas. The end result? A world class piece of infrastructure that is already getting attention from top mountain bike enthusiasts across the country.
One of our premier trails is the Greenbrier River trail – about 80 miles from North Caldwell to Cass along the river. This nice, easy one percent grade allows cyclists, young and old, to enjoy the many breathtaking views. More than just breathtaking scenery and a great outdoor experience, this great trail brings economic development to Pocahontas and Greenbrier Counties. Close by the Greenbrier trail, the Rahall Transportation Institute is developing exciting plans with Snowshoe Mountain and its 22,000 acres of trails to enhance their off-season, and recently finished its pilot program, mapping existing and proposed trail route options in five counties, including Cabell and Wayne.
West Virginia’s small businesses are reaping big business benefits from our great trails. Thirty-four bicycle stores in West Virginia’s Third Congressional District are grossing more than $13 million per year, and our neighbors in southwest Virginia have seen visitors along the Virginia Creeper Trail spend nearly $1.6 million annually providing an estimated 27 new full-time jobs.
Of course, bike trails are not the only way to enjoy our rugged scenery. The Hatfield-McCoy Trails for ATV riding have exploded into a high-powered economic engine for southwest West Virginia. With more than 500 miles of off-road trails in nine counties, this system has spawned ATV friendly cities, with new hotels filled to capacity every year.
Our diverse topography and abundant lakes provide many different ways to explore our great State: a water trail along the Guyandotte River; the Civil War trails; the Quilt Trail launched in Monroe County; and the Great Eastern Trail, which will reach across our southernmost region. There are twenty-three scenic byways, offering a more leisurely driving alternative to frantic Interstate traffic, with a chance to immerse oneself in the rich cultural and historic heritage specific to our region.
The Coal Heritage Trail, which I established, seeks to preserve and tie together the remaining vestiges of our historical coal communities through 13 counties and it continues to enhance tourism opportunities.
Byways to bike trails – it is this unique combination of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and inviting access for all that makes West Virginia truly God’s country.
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) represents West Virginia’s 3rd District
For more information contact: Diane Luensmann (202) 225-3452