PRINCETON — A project exploring whether adjoining properties owned by Mercer County, the city of Bluefield and the city of Princeton have any tourism potential is now being discussed for the year 2021.
Members of the Mercer County Commission spoke recently during a special commission meeting with Mayor David Graham of Princeton, Princeton City Manager Mike Webb, Bluefield Community and Economic
Development Director Jim Spencer and Executive Director Jamie Null of the Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau about mapping property in the vicinity of Glenwood and the Mercer County Airport.
The cities approached the county commission about mapping the area near the airport, County Commissioner Bill Archer said later.
“The city of Bluefield and the city of Princeton both have some additional property there,” Archer said.
Jeffrey Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Recreational Authority, had been contacted about the possibility of mapping the area. While ATV trails could be considered for the land, the area is not contiguous with the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system, Archer said. Mercer County’s part of the system, the Pocahontas Trail, could not expand into that area.
“The Pocahontas Trail is not close to it and if you would try to connect where ATV traffic is, for example on Lorton Lick Road, that area around Montcalm, there are lot of private property owners you would have to get an easement from to make it all that way,” he said.
Mapping the area will help the cities and the county see what, if anything, could be done for recreation in the area.
“It’s a mapping project. It’s not even a feasibility project. It’s a mapping project,” Archer said.
A recreation project was considered for the area more than 10 years ago. Between 2005 to 2007, Mercer County and the two cities combined their efforts to open an equestrian project in the area, he recalled.
And the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) halted that project because it’s in the watershed of Brush Creek. The series of dams in that area blocks flooding into Princeton, Archer said.
Princeton still addresses high water along Stafford Drive, and in 1955 there was a damaging flood around Princeton Community Hospital and the former city hall along Courthouse Road, Archer said.
“That was serious flooding. That series of dams protect a lot of commercial property: the entirety of Stafford Drive where Princeton Senior High School is now,” he added.
In 2013, former U.S. Rep Nick Rahall tried to get an easement for a multiuse facility or public center on that property, but the NRCS denied that as well, Archer said.
The mapping would help the county and cities learn if the property could be used in any way for improving the local economy.
“Well, the main thing we’re trying to do is look and see if it’s feasible to use any of that property for any kind of recreation or economic development,” Spencer said later. “And we won’t know that until we complete the mapping project.”
Spencer recalled the environmental concerns that surfaced when other projects were considered for the area, which has about 2,000 acres.
“We may or may not be able to use that property, but we won’t know until we evaluate it,” he said.
Webb said the project would be just for mapping to see what options were available for the property. Walking trails or trails for electric bicycles are among the possibilities that could be considered.
“The mapping will lead to what is available or even the options we would have, and what direction we want to go in as a group with Bluefield, Princeton and the county,” Webb said.
County Commission President Gene Buckner said during the meeting that he would want the Green Vallley-Glenwood Public Service District to be part of any discussions about development possibilities for the area.
The county commission voted to contribute $3,300 to the project, with Bluefield and Princeton each contributing $3,300 as well for the Hatfield-McCoy Trail authority to perform the mapping.
Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com