It’s no secret: I love riding my motorcycle through the winding hills and green valleys of our beautiful state. However, I enjoyed riding it even more when I was given the opportunity to do it for a great charitable cause.

Famous racecar driver Kyle Petty and a huge entourage of riders, including a number of other stars, made a stop in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., last week as part of the 13th annual Chick-fil-A Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America. Due to the fantastic support from West Virginians, the riders wanted to make sure that they made a stop here to show their appreciation.

They told me that not only is West Virginia a fantastic place to ride motorcycles, with its mountainous terrain and spectacular scenery, but the people of this great state make the experience that much better. I could not agree with them more.

Petty had the idea for this generous cause 13 years ago. Since its beginnings in 1995, the ride has had more than 5,700 participants, logged more than 7.2 million miles and has raised more than $10.5 million for the Victory Junction Gang Camp and other charities that support chronically ill children.

The day after they rode through West Virginia, the riders made a stop at the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C. Victory Junction was formed by Kyle Petty and his wife, Pattie, in 2004 in honor of their son to allow kids with a variety of health issues that would normally prevent them from attending camp the opportunity to have the summer camp experience.

The spotlight on the riding industry in West Virginia continued beyond the Kyle Petty Charity Ride last week. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a trail in Mullens, W.Va., that will link the city with the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system.

Not only is this trail an exciting place for riders from around the state and across the country to discover our stunning scenery, it will also bring a surge in economic development to Southern West Virginia and really open Mullens to the tourism industry. I have dedicated funding in the upcoming fiscal year to support this worthwhile project that will help bring revenue to the southern coalfields.

Riders will eventually be able to connect with an ATV facility at Twin Falls State Park and, with the expansion of the lodge at the park, this trail should ultimately increase traffic and occupancy at Twin Falls. Every time a town has connected with the trail system, ridership has gone up dramatically. This trail will help to grow Mullens and Pineville, and attract people to these heritage-rich areas.

Events like the Kyle Petty Charity Ride and projects like the Hatfield-McCoy system put West Virginia’s recreational opportunities in a national spotlight. We have so much beauty and adventure to offer and enhancing our riding industry is another way people can experience the richness of our great state.

— Gov. Joe Manchin

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