No matter how great or small, all things first begin with an idea. All it takes is a little inspiration combined with dedication to make the idea a reality. That even holds true for activities like building a trail, and in the case of Virginias new Spearhead Trail it all began with one lady and a hardware store, an EZ-Go golf cart, and a town council that could see bigger possibilities through the trees.
Like thousands of other rural communities, St. Paul, Virginia would often struggle with balancing budgets and providing required services for the fine citizens of the community. They also had Jennifer Bailey and she had a problem. Jennifer wanted to drive her EZ-Go to the hardware store she and her husband Greg own and operate in the town, and Baileys Hardware is not the type of place where building anything comes without considerable thought. This is the type of hardware store where granddad bought his bolts, and between the log chains, bins of hardware, .22 rifle shells, and cans of turpentine; the unpainted, creaky, yet still solid wood floors have stood the test of time. Somewhere this place surely has a sign proclaiming “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”. The old hardware has helped provide the community’s needs, one bolt, screw, and nail at a time because as they know in St. Paul, every part of the project counts. Jennifer’s request to the city allowing her to drive to the store was just the first part.
It’s not hard to see the success and economic impact communities have reaped by allowing and even welcoming trail riding enthusiasts into town, and St. Paul was in the perfect position to do the same. Geography had blessed them, and all the town needed was the spark of an idea, a little forethought, and they would be on track for future success. Jennifer’s request to allow her EZ-Go access was the spark that got town officials thinking about much more. Why not make St. Paul ATV friendly? After much discussion and planning that is exactly what they did. Today that spark burns brighter than ever, and the town has even been recognized by the Virginia Municipal League as the top achiever in creating a sustainable plan that balances the needs of the community with respect to services, educational, recreational, economic, and environmental needs. They credit the creation of the ATV friendly ordinance and St. Paul trailhead of the Mountain View ATV Trail as a major factor in the communities success, but it’s not all just trail riding. With a river bordering the town, water activities were also a natural fit. Clinch River Adventures offers tubing, kayaking, and canoeing while fishing is also always available. To date the implementation of the town’s master plan and trail system have been credited for the creation of nine new area businesses, and that gets people excited. St. Paul and Wise County is quickly becoming an outdoor adventure hub. We saw new shopping centers with a variety of well-known chain stores as well as unique boutiques, a movie theatre, and many restaurants surrounding the towns all along well-maintained roads and highways.
Coal to Goal
St. Paul lies in Wise County in the Southwest corner of Virginia, and easy access off State Route 58-A & Route 63 makes getting there no problem. Built on former coalfields, the trails system is an excellent example of recreational use of former mining facilities, and the trails are overseen by the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA). The SRRA is a public corporation of the government and long term plans include “a system of recreational trails and facilities, including trail-head centers, parking areas, camping facilities, picnic areas, recreational areas, historic or cultural interpretive sites, and other facilities...” What stands out about St. Paul though is the welcome. It’s one of the friendliest places we have been. In part, we think due to the majority of residents being outdoor and off-road enthusiasts themselves who want to share their joy of the sport, their hometown and what it offers with others. Wise County takes great pride in their area. St Paul and Spearhead Trails is the jewel in their system.
The Mountain View “Off Highway Vehicle” (OHV) system is a multi-use trail system primarily designed for ATVs and Side by Sides. The system offers a good mix of terrain with trails for all skill levels. Expect mostly woods riding with some mud and rocky sections at times. Trails are well marked, but you might occasionally find maintenance equipment working along the trail or new trails being built, so keep an eye out. Also bring your camera because you’ll love the views from the top. The Mountain system is also rapidly expanding with tails connecting to other counties as well such as:
Pocahontas – (Tazewell County) – Accessible from town and Boissevain Park.
Buchanan-Dickenson Trail System – (Buchanan & Dickenson Counties)
Leeman Field System – Pennington Gap (Lee County)
Scott County Equestrian Trail – (Scott County, VA)
You don’t even need to bring a machine to Spearhead since you can rent them right in St. Paul at Clinch River ATV Rentals. They maintain a new fleet of Polaris RZR Side-By-Sides and you can park your car and ride your machine right through town. If you’re hungry pull into a local restaurant, shop, or visit the Farmers Market. CRATV is on the corner of 4th and Broad Street by the old Texaco station in the middle of town, and right on the way to the trail head.
Annual trail permits are $50 and are good for one full year from the date of purchase, and Spearhead Trails day passes are $15. They can be purchased at local stores or online, and sticker funds go towards developing new trails and existing trail maintenance. As expected you can get one right in Bailey Hardware.
One of the many great things we discovered about St Paul is the cottage rentals. They’re privately owned, clean, newly renovated, and very affordable. As far as dining, we suggest you experience the frog legs and desserts at the Riverside Diner on Johnnie Ramey Drive just behind the Riverside Shopping Center. Or sample the Coffee Station Cafe’ and Bakery in Richlands, or the Sweet Thangs Sweet Shoppe in Bluefield only minutes away. There is a mix of anything from fine dining to family style restaurants to satisfy every palette.
Home for Adventure
There are few places that are as welcoming as St. Paul. Like Baileys Hardware, it’s a bit like a step back in time, but the people will make you feel very much like family. It can be a wonderful trail riding adventure, and it all started with an idea. And Jennifer’s EZ-Go.
Suggestions to check out and plan your trip: