Mercer Co. ATV

The region’s ATV tourism is promoted in Mercer County in this file photo. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail will be opened on May 21, ahead of the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend.

CHARLESTON — The Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail System will reopen on Thursday, May 21.

Gov. Jim Justice made the announcement Friday afternoon, saying he has received feedback from many people on the issue and he wanted to reopen the popular trails before Memorial Day weekend.

“We know how important the Hatfield-McCoy Trail is to us economically,” he said, adding that it is an outdoor activity and he is aware of the fact people from out of state come here to ride.

Justice said, though, rules will be in place for riders, including self-screening precautions about any illness they may have or a temperature above 100 degrees.

Other rules riders are urged to follow include wearing face coverings or shields when stopped, social distancing, no congregating on the trail and no sharing of vehicles or equipment outside of the rider’s immediate group or party.

The Hatfield-McCoy trails will be monitored closely for any issues, he added.

“Anyone who is coming to our trails, we expect you to respect us and our people who are here,” he said. “Protect yourself and protect us.”

Justice said he is happy to see the trail system reopen but he is also concerned, and “we will watch it like a hawk” to make sure rules are followed and there are no outbreaks of the coronavirus.

“We are going to protect you,” he said, adding that everyone has to recognize the economic benefits of reopening. “We have to move forward,” he said. “But we are going to monitor it in every way.”

Businesses related to the ATV industry along the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, including those in Mercer County, which is the eastern gateway that provides access to the hundreds of miles of trails that stretch across Southern West Virginia, had asked the Governor to try to reopen the trail by Memorial Day weekend.

They said in a letter to him earlier this week they lose money and reservations every day the trail remains closed and Memorial Day weekend is a popular time to come here and is the unofficial kickoff to the summer riding season.

The ATV industry keeps growing and more than 55,000 permits to ride were issued last year, a new record.

Jeff Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy trail system, said work will begin on Monday to get the trails ready for the riders.

“We are in the office today (Friday) calling all of our employees,” he said. “They will be back out starting Monday cleaning off the trails.”

Lusk said everyone is “excited and we truly appreciate the Governor giving us this opportunity.”

All of the businesses along the trail system are “great partners,” he said, and they are committed to make sure that riders and the community are safe and follow all the guidelines.

That includes lodging facilities, he added, which understand what they must do to protect everyone.

“We have to do our part, and the riders have to do their part to follow the guidelines,” he said. “We have a great opportunity here.”

Lusk said those “common sense” guidelines are something everyone can live with.

Jamie Null, executive director of the Mercer County Visitors and Convention Bureau, said the opening date is good news for all involved.

“I am really happy the Governor addressed it and they took the time to set a date and create those guidelines,” she said. “Our folks can create a plan for May 21.”

Null said the trail opening will not be immediately promoted and guidelines on any promotions will be in conjunction with the state Department of Tourism.

“For us, it will be a different marketing campaign,” she said, referring to the guidelines as well as the area of the country where marketing the trails will focus.

Marketing that was initially developed for 2020 is “no longer valid,” she said. “We have to start all over again.

It will be a matter of “dipping our toes into the water,” she said, and taking it one step at a time with a slow approach, “not full speed ahead.”

However, Null said riders will come back.

“We feel like this is a safe activity,” she said.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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