Southwest Virginia Sees Immediate and Significant Economic Impact From Spearhead Trails.

Southwest Virginia Sees Immediate and Significant Economic Impact From Spearhead Trails.

logo.2014.spearhead-trails-virginia.jpgST. PAUL VA, February 27, 2014 -Since its opening in late June of 2013, Southwest Virginia’s Spearhead Trails initiative has been the subject of dozens of local newspaper articles and regional television news features. The “Mountain View” trail system in St. Paul was also the subject of a half hour feature on the nationally syndicated Fisher’s ATV Worldtelevision show, broadcast on the Outdoor Channel. Fisher’s ATV Worldwill again feature the Spearhead Trails system this summer on the Velocity Channel, boasting over 20 million viewers. With the recent increase in publicity surrounding Southwest Virginia’s Spearhead Trails, one might think it wasa new initiative. In fact, the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (AKA Spearhead Trails) has been working on developing trail systems since 2008. 

While the publicity is rewarding, appreciated, and needed, it’s what’s happening on the Main Streets and side streets in this little town of 1000 that is the most meaningful to Executive Director, Chuck Riedhammer. “Over 2,000 rider permits have been sold since opening,” notes Riedhammer. And on a recent February weekend, when temps rose to a balmy sixty degrees, over 500 riders with wallets in hand could be seen traversing the challenging and picturesque trails of St. Paul’s Mountain View system. ATVers who place a high value on being able to ride their often $10,000 -$20,000 trail machines off the trail are also venturing downtown where this ATV-Friendly burg, and its businesses, are capturing new sources of revenue. In fact, both ATV rental businesses in St. Paul were fully booked during this entire weekend and many businesses were gratefully overwhelmed.

It’s those wallets, and the businesses they help to create, that are at the core of Spearhead Trails’ efforts. Since Mountain View’s opening in June of 2013, five new businesses have been created or expanded and two new businesses are expectedto open in 2014. “There has been over $500,000 in private investment in the Town of St. Paul since our trail system opened,” explains Riedhammer. “These businesses include two new ATV rental shops, a trailside assistance business, two new lodging businesses, and a campground expansion right next to our trailhead. These are real dollars being invested locally. We haven’t even begun to capture the total economic impact.”   

That economic impact comes to St. Paul in a variety of ways. The most apparent way is a direct result of Spearhead Trails’ business philosophy. “We utilize local businesses, stores and gas stations as Partner Retailersto sell Spearhead Trails permits and merchandise,” says Riedhammer. “Our retailers make $5.00 on every permit theysell but it’s the collateral spending that is significant. Riders who visit our permit retailers often spend in excess of $150 per transaction, stocking up on things like drinks, snacks, clothing and fuel.” Additionally, local grocery stores and restaurants have seen increases in business. During the filming of Fisher’s ATV World, several local restaurants and businesses reported a doubling of their normal weekend revenues. All those businesses help to collect valuable meals, lodging and sales tax directly benefitting St. Paul and the State of Virginia. 

“We initially thought that our tourism season might be expanded to eight months thanks to the extra traffic generated by Spearhead Trails,” says Greg Bailey of Bailey’s Hardware and St. Paul Suites. “But from what I’m seeing, our tourism season is going to be 11 months because these ATV riders, they’re hardcore.”

St. Paul is not only poised to capture increased revenues from ATVers, its proximity to the biologically diverse Clinch River and an abundance of hiking and biking trails attracts a diverse mix of adventure seekers. Clinch River Adventures is another business that recently opened in St. Paul offering tubing and kayaking. While not directly related to Spearhead Trails, owner Terri Anne Funk admits it was one factor that attracted her to open a business in St. Paul.

The upshot of all this publicity and success boils down to a simple desire on the part of Spearhead Trails’ executive board and staff; “We want to do it again,” says Spearhead Trails Board Chair, Charlotte Mullins. “We have trails planned and in progress throughout the entire Heart of Appalachia Region, in the counties of Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Scott, and Tazewell. We want to see towns like Grundy, Haysi, Clintwood, Pocahontas, Lebanon, Pennington Gap, Gate City and Dungannon all benefit in the same way St. Paul has. And we believe they will once our other systems begin to open.” While opening dates are difficult to pinpoint this early in the spring, Mullins notes that she is hopeful to have at least one or two new systems open this year. 

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation creating the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA) in 2008 asa public corporation and governmental instrumentality with the ability to exercise the public powers of the State.  Its mandate is to establish and maintain “…a system of recreational trails and appurtenant facilities, including trailhead centers, parking areas, camping facilities, picnic areas, recreational areas, historic or cultural interpretive sites, and other facilities…” in the Southwest Regional Recreational Area. SRRA serves and supports all jurisdictions within the LENOWISCO and Cumberland Plateau PDCs, encompassing the counties of Buchanan, Dickenson Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, Wise, and the city of Norton.

For more information about the Spearhead Trails initiative, visit www.SpearheadTrails.com

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