Click here for photos from the November 12, 2009 SRRA Conference.
December 11, 2009

Tazewell County Recreation Development Authority
Invites you to join us in celebrating the Kick Off of the Pocahontas Trail Development

Friday, December 18, 2009 at 4 pm
Location: Tazewell County Administration Office
108 East Main Street, Tazewell, VA 24651

Please reply by email or calling Pam Warden at (276) 988-1271.



On November 12th, 2009, the results of a recent five month comprehensive study was presented at a conference held in Norton Virginia that  shows that there is tremendous potential for Southwest Virginia to become a “Trail Destination” for ATV riders, bikers, hikers, canoeists, horseback riders, naturalists and others.

The in-depth study and comprehensive plan by We Make Things Happen Corporation (WMTH) was presented at a conference attended by area legislators, county administrators, mayors, and community leaders “We are excited to learn the potential positive impact of the proposed Spearhead Trails system”, notes Jack McClanahan, SRRA Chair.

The study goes on to say that if developed under the guidance of the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA), the proposed Spearhead Trail System has the potential to bring 200,000 visitors to the region and adding an additional $30 million to local economies at a time when economic growth is desperately needed.  The potential increase in the work force could be as high as 300 to 500 jobs within the next 10 years... (for the rest of the story, click here for a Word Document or click here for a downloadable PDF file.)

The following are various newspaper articles written about the Spearhead Trails Initiative.

Spearhead Trails Initiative To Bring Jobs, Dollars
Lee County - Powell Valley News, November 25, 2009

On November 12, 2009, the results of a recent five-month comprehensive study was presented at a conference held in Norton that shows tremendous potential for Southwest Virginia to become a "Trail Destination" for ATV riders, bikers, hikers, canoeists, horseback riders, naturalists and others.

The in-depth study and comprehensive plan by We Make Things Happen Corporation (WMTH) was presented at a conference attended by area legislators, county administrators, mayors, and community leaders. "We are excited to learn the potential positive impact of the proposed Spearhead Trails system," notes Chairman Jack McClanahan of the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA).

The study goes on to say that if developed under the guidance of the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA), the proposed Spearhead Trail System has the potential to bring 200,000 visitors to the region and add an additional $30 million to local economies at a time when economic growth is desperately needed. The potential increase in the work force could be as high as 300 to 500 jobs within the next 10 years.

"The study will be of great benefit as we approach the Commonwealth of Virginia and other potential funding sources for the funds we will need to start and sustain the project during the deevelopment years," noted Mark Caruso, SRRA Vice Chair. "The full report is available in its entireity by calling (270) 792-5300 or emailing us at," he added.

The Southwest Regional Recreation Authority was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2008 for the purposed and goal of overseeing the development and management of the Spearhead Trail System within the counties of Lee, Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, Wise and the City of Norton. The proposed trail system, under the guidance of SRRA, is anticipated to provide economic diversification for the region through the development and expansion of businesses such as outfitters; campgrounds, hotels, B&B's, and cabin rentals; restaurants; gift shops; supplier stores; shuttle services, and more.

The Spearhead Trails project was started and initially facilitated by Virginia Tourism Corporation's Partnership Alliance Marketing division, and in 2009 received funding from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Revitalization Commission and the Motorcycle Industry Council to conduct a study to determine the potential and to develop a plan. Additional funding has been received from the City of Norton, the Town of Pennington Gap, the Mountain ATV Club and the counties of Tazewell, Dickenson, Wise and Buchanan.

Both the Lee County Supervisors and the Pennington Gap Town Council have taken steps of support for the intiative pending the obtainment of easements and funding commitments. The supervisors, on November 17, appointed Pennington Gap Town Manager Tina Rowe to the board of the directors of SRRA, for which she is serving as treasurer.

David Jessee, of the Stone Mountain ATV Club, is also a member of the SRRA board of directors. Rowe said Friday that the trails program is a "great economic development opportunity for the area. We are working with the landowners and we appreciate their cooperation. This could spark some entrepreneurship and recreational needs to enhance the quality of life."

She said she became involved when a group started meeting with the Virginia Tourism Authority for the common goal of providing a trail system. Then legislation created the SRRA and appointments were made. She said her position as treasurer follows her background in budgeting. She served the town of Pennington Gap as treasurer for eight years. Other areas benefiting from trails include the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail System in West Virginia which was established in 2000 and which provided an economic output of $7.7 million, created a tax revenue of $622,752; provided $2.7 million in income and created 146 new jobs according to a 2006 Economic Impact Study. Southwest Virginia already has more than 100 miles of off-road highway vehicle trails and has two communities declaring themselves ATV-Friendly with more than 100 miles of trails.

The total economic impact of the Virginia Creeper Mountain Biking and Walking Trail to the State of Virginia annually a $2.5 million with more than $1.5 million spent in the local economy of Washington and Grayson counties and an estimated 24.7 jobs were created due to the increased visitors to the area.

Business tax revenues in Damascus ahve increased from $23,000 in 2003 to more than $55,000 in 2009 and the year is not even over yet. Meal and lodging taxes increased from $42,000 in 2002 to $104,150 in 2008, a 60 percent increase in just 6 years. An Damascus, a town of just over 900 people has seven bike rentals and a shuttle services, 21 lodging facilites within the corporate limits including a RV park, an additional 19 lodging facilities within two to 17 miles of the town plus seven restaurants.

The potential to develop similar Rails to Trails is available in the Spearhead Trails Region. Developing stacked looped trail systems for both mountain biking and walking trails similar to the Allegrippis Trail System in Pennsylvania in any one of the seven Southwest Virginia cvounties has huge economic potential.

Horseback riding also has huge potential in Southwest Virginia especially int he Lee, Scott, Wise and Buchanan areas. Knott County Kentucky, started developing horseback riding trails in their county in 2006 and now holds an annual trail ride every spring and fall. The first year they attracted 500 riders and 250 horses. This Fall, they had over 10,000 riders and 7,000 horses come to their county for a three day event from as far away as Texas, Wisconsin and Utah. Many of the riders actually ended up staying seven days, spending an average $325 per person while in the area creating $2.3 million impact on the region, events that could be happening in Southwest Virginia, according to the press release from SRRA.

The canoeing and boating potential in the Southwest Virginia has not even begun to be tapped with local families having canoed in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, Utah, Montana, Colorado, Missouri and Canada. Sections of the Clinch River are better than nearly all of those and is very comparable to the Meramec River in Missouri that can attract as many as 8,000 boaters on a given weekend, according to the release. Restaurants, shuttle services, canoe rentals, campgrounds, hotels, cabins, outfitters, stores and more have opened along the Meramec's banks and within nearby communities, also events which could be happening along the Clinch River through Scott, Russell, and Wise counties and along the Powell River in the southern portion of Lee County.

Virginia has one of the most extensive and complete wildlife viewing and birding trail systems in the United States on which Southwest Virginia has yet to capitalize. The small town of Canadian, Texas, began marketing bird watching in their community and within five years, 160 new jobs were created including 12 B & B's four new restaurants, the renovation of 29 commerical buildings, of which 16 were historic structures plus a 28 percent increase in sales tax. All seven counties and the City of Norton have yet to capitalize on such an opportunity in their communities which actually add tremendously to existing and potential trails in the area.

For more information on the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA) and the Spearhead Trails initiative, visit the website.

Spearhead Trails — Project holds promise for region
Bluefield Daily Telegraph, November 16, 2009

Sometimes there isn’t a need to reinvent the wheel. That’s the strategy Southwest Virginia leaders are taking with the proposed seven-county Spearhead Trails.

Project organizers are hoping to emulate the highly successful Hatfield-McCoy Trails in neighboring southern West Virginia. And, in many ways, the Hatfield-McCoy Trails are largely the inspiration for the Spearhead Trails.

A newly released economic impact study is suggesting great promise for Southwest Virginia with the proposed Spearhead Trails.

According to the report released last week, the seven-county trail system could attract as many as 200,000 visitors to Southwest Virginia and add an additional $30 million in new revenue to the local economy. The study also concluded the trail system could create 300 to 500 new jobs for the Southwest Virginia region over the next 10 years.

The trail system is proposed for ATV riders, bikes, hikers, canoeists, horseback riders, naturalists and others. The trails are planned for the counties of Tazewell, Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Wise and the city of Norton.

The Pocahontas community, which has openly embraced the concept of the Spearhead Trails in recent weeks, could be the first community to benefit from the project because of its strategic location near the state line of West Virginia, and its close proximity to a proposed trailhead site of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails in neighboring Bramwell.

“I think there are many things we can learn from the West Virginia trail, and use them as a model. So we are excited about the potential of these trails,” Tazewell County Administrator Jim Spencer said last week.

Jim Campbell Jr., who was sworn in last week as the new Northern District Board of Supervisor member, said the Pocahontas community has embraced the idea of the Spearhead Trails.

We share in the excitement over the Spearhead Trails. If officials in Southwest Virginia can follow the success of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, the economic and tourism benefits could be far-reaching for the greater Southwest Virginia region.

We look forward to this new tourism opportunity.

ATV Trails Could Bring 'Adventure Tourism' to Southwest Virginia
By Joe Tennis, Features Writer, Bristol Herald Courier, November 13, 2009

NORTON, Va. – Southwest Virginia could become a mecca for what Michael Wampler calls “adventure tourism.” And that adventure could start with a plan – unveiled Thursday at a conference in Norton – to make the Old Dominion’s seven westernmost counties a destination for all-terrain vehicle users, said Wampler, a member of the Southwest Regional Recreational Authority. SRRA, established by the Virginia General Assembly in 2008, is a nonprofit entity overseeing management of the “Spearhead Trail System,” now being outlined across Norton and the counties of Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Wise, Scott and Tazewell.

“Spearhead” takes its name from a map of this region, with the shapes of the counties roughly resembling an arrowhead, said Jack McClanahan, SRRA chairman.

If implemented, the new Spearhead Trail System and its all-terrain vehicle users could “have a great economic impact in Virginia,” said Mark Caruso, the SRRA’s vice chairman, speaking to about 75 politicians and municipal leaders who gathered at the Spearhead Trails Comprehensive Plan Conference.

Caruso pointed to the success of the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail System of neighboring West Virginia, where ATV trails now extend for hundreds of miles across properties belonging to more than 250 landowners.
All the ATV trails are built on private property, largely belonging to coal, timber and gas companies, said Jeffrey T. Lusk, executive director of the trail system.

“People in West Virginia have lots of places to ride,” Lusk said. Each year, too, West Virginia collects fees from trail users, Lusk said. In 2008, permits from 30,000 riders garnered more than $1 million, he added. Citing that success, Caruso said, “We can have what they have. We’ve got to step forward and make this thing happen.”

A comprehensive study by Debby Spencer, representing the WMTH Corp. of Bowling Green, Ky., says the Spearhead Trail System could potentially bring 200,000 visitors to the region, create 500 jobs and add $30 million to local economies in the course of 10 years. “Southwest Virginia has the potential to develop hundreds of miles of mountain biking, horseback riding and off-road vehicle trails,” Spencer said.

Promising support for the creation of trails, state Delegate Clarence “Bud” Phillips, D-Sandy Ridge, said, “We can and should become the playground of the east ... This group can help us do that.” In addition to investigating funding sources, part of making the system a reality would require surveying landowners to acquire easements for trails, Caruso said.

Several ATV trails now exist across Southwest Virginia, including a short segment that crosses land belonging to Dominion Power at Virginia City, said company spokesman Greg Edwards. Trails are also now being developed at Pennington Gap in a partnership between the town and Lee County at Leeman Field, said Tina Rowe, the town manager and SRRA’s secretary. Another trail is being developed at Pocahontas, a historic Tazewell County coal camp near the West Virginia border. There, ATVs are allowed to drive down the town’s streets, said Tazewell County Administrator Jim Spencer.

Part of SRRA’s mission is to get current ATV users off national forest lands and onto designated trails, McClanahan said. Then, each segment – be it hikers, horseback riders or ATV users – could have designated trails to follow, McClanahan said, adding, “I’m as dedicated to the blue-haired bird-watcher as I am to the ATV riders.” | (276) 791-0704

Spearhead Trails aims to boost tourism in Southwest Virginia
by Steve Igo, Kingsport Times-News, Published November 12, 2009.

NORTON - Southwest Virginia officals and representatives of private organizations have shouldered their packs, pulled on their boots and are ready to embark on an epic hike to transform the region's tourism potential.

On Thursday, about 100 people took in a presentation of a five-month analysis of a major regional trails development effort on the launching pad across Lee, Scott, Wise, Tazewell, Buchanan, Russell, and Dickenson counties. Holding up the countdown at this point is an infusion of fuel in the form of state and federal dollars to get the initiative off the ground.

Thursday's unveiling of the "Spearhead Trails" comprehensive plan is the result of a years-long grass roots effort that began to blossom last year when the Virginia General Assembly created the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA).

"I was asked this morning, 'Is this the light at the end of the tunnel?" said SRRA Chairman Jack McClanahan. "No. This is the cracking of the dawn of a new day in Southwest Virginia."

The "Spearhead" name comes from a rough geographical outline of the region, with the point at the Cumberland Gap in Lee County. But the point on Thursday was to make happen what the comprehensive plan proclaims can happen.

Envisoned is thousands of miles of trails incorporating all elements of trail recreational activities including off-road vehicles (including all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles), bicycling, geocaching, hiking, and camping.

The regional Spearhead Trails system would incorporate the 400 miles of existing hiking trails within the Jefferson National Forest and also “greenways” and “blueways,” the latter referring to making the most of waterways such as the Clinch and Powell rivers for canoeing and kayaking.

“Southwest Virginia has tremendous potential. Huge potential,” said Debby Spencer, CEO of We Make Things Happen (WMTH).

Based in Bowling Green, Ky., Spencer’s outfit was hired earlier this year to conduct the study and craft the comprehensive plan unveiled on Thursday. Funds were provided by the Virginia Tobacco Commission, Motorcycle Industry Council and local governments.

When conducting the study, WMTH staffers wondered why “this hasn’t happened here yet. We’re talking about a paradigm shift in the way Southwest Virginia looks at economic development,” Spencer said.

The study claims that under the SRRA, the Spearhead Trails system has the potential to attract 200,000 visitors to the region and pump $30 million annually into the region’s economy as well as create up to 500 new jobs along with expansion of existing businesses and birth of new recreation and tourism-oriented enterprises including outfitters, private campgrounds, cabin rentals, hotels, restaurants, gift shops and supplier outlets.

For many years, advocates of what is now the Spearhead Trails initiative looked with envy at the wildly successful Hatfield-McCoy Trails ( system in West Virginia.

Hatfield-McCoy Trails Executive Director Jeffrey T. Lusk cheered for the Spearhead Trails initiative on Thursday. The authorizing legislation in West Virginia directed cooperation with Kentucky and Virginia in developing a super-regional system, and Lusk said it’s high time the initiative was under way in Virginia.

“What we could see is that three states working together can develop thousands and thousands of miles of trails” for the common benefit of the super-trail region, he said.

The Hatfield-McCoy system encompassing several counties in West Virginia has 500 miles of trails, most devoted to off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, with plans to develop at least another 500 miles, Lusk said.

“It’s an engine for entrepreneurship,” he said, developed as an economic development project and not as merely a few locations where local ATV riders can do their thing. The West Virginia trails experiment has resulted in a projected $1.2 million in rider permit sales this year from 30,000 riders. While still subsidized by state funds, Lusk said the Hatfield-McCoy Trails system looks to be self-sufficient when annual ridership tops 50,000 annually.

The Spearhead Trails initiative will be a “great economic engine” for Southwest Virginia, said SRRA Vice Chairman Mark Caruso. The region is located within a day’s driving distance of millions of potential customers, he said.

“We’re ready to move forward. We’re ready to take the next step,” Caruso said, but state funds are vital to launching the initiative, particularly in hiring a Spearhead Trails executive director and staff.

“We have everything we need. We have the formula for success. We could have the premier trail system in the Eastern United States if we push this to what it truly can be,” Caruso said.

Getting there will be a tussle in tough economic times, said McClanahan, but Southwest Virginians have never been shy about taking on a challenge.

Caruso said the SRRA is up to the challenge of prying rare dollars out of Richmond even while acknowledging the state government’s current budget-cutting situation.

“Oh, we’ve got mountains to climb and rivers to cross,” said McClanahan.

But he likened modern-day lobbying for taxpayer dollars in Richmond to “an adventure” similar to what the early pioneers encountered when they first came to the region with little more to go on than a whole lot of gumption while wandering along wild game and Indian trails.

The Spearhead Trails system would also employ a department of trail rangers with full police powers to keep the trails safe for users. The Hatfield-McCoy Trails system employs rangers to patrol the trails, check for paid use permits, and enforce all safety regulations.

For more information visit

WMTH CORPORATION PO BOX 51153 BOWLING GREEN, KY 42102 PHONE (270) 792-5300 FAX 721-0004