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Wayne County parks eyed for Hatfield-McCoy Trails

November 28, 2018

Rick Steelhammer/HD Media The Hatfield-McCoy Trails system is the largest managed trail system on the East Coast, according to Jeffrey Lusk of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreational Authority.

New units of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails system could take shape next year in Wayne and Boone counties, thanks to grants from the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails program.

Expected to re-open next summer is the Hatfield-McCoy Trails’ Ivy Branch trail system off U.S. 119 in Lincoln County. That system closed in October 2015 when the landowner from whom the trail property was leased sold the tract to a coal company, which chose not to keep the lease in place.

“The trails in Wayne County are being planned in conjunction with Cabwaylingo State Forest and the Army Corps of Engineers’ Beech Fork Lake,” said Jeffrey Lusk, director of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority. “I think a trail system at Cabwaylingo could be developed in the next year, and we’ll probably find out in late spring if we can develop trails at East Lynn.”

East Lynn Lake’s project area includes nearly 23,000 acres of hilly woodlands surrounding the 1,000-acre reservoir, while Cabwaylingo State Forest encompasses 8,123 acres near the community of Dunlow.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill passed by the Legislature that calls for creating a trail system for all-terrain and off-road vehicles to operate at Cabwaylingo on a two-year trial basis. In September, the state Division of Natural Resources issued a request for proposals to develop the trail system and operate it during the trial period.

Last month, Justice announced that $120,000 in Transportation Alternative and Recreational Trails funds had been approved for the Hatfield-McCoy Trails system to buy a D-5 dozer in order to build and maintain 100 miles of trails in Wayne County for motorized recreation.

An additional $120,000 grant from the same program was awarded to the Hatfield-McCoy Trails to identify sites for, then begin to build, 100 miles of new trail in Boone County. Boone County lost its section of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails system in October 2015 when the land encompassing the Little Coal River Trail network, near Julian, was sold to the same company that bought the nearby Ivy Branch system.

In May, the Hatfield-McCoy Trails system was awarded a $3.3 million Abandoned Mine Lands grant to buy 2,300 acres of the former Ivy Branch Trail network and add two parcels totaling 400 acres to provide stream access to, and river frontage along, the Little Coal River.

Terms of the grant require the trail system to seal old mine portals and auger holes, and to perform other mine reclamation work on the property.

By having the trail authority own the land, private investors can feel more secure about developing campgrounds, cabins and other amenities for trail users on the property or adjacent to it.

A master plan will be developed to identify locations on the property best suited for trail user amenities and other recreational developments, according to Lusk.

“Ivy Branch will be far more than a place to go trail riding,” he said. “It will be an outdoor recreation playground with several miles of riverfront, all within 20 miles of Charleston.”

Once reclamation work is complete, “We’ll have about six months to recommission and re-sign the trails, and have it open again in the summer,” Lusk said.

Grants pending final approval from the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation include a $4.1 million award to the McDowell Public Service District for sewer service to homes and businesses in the communities of Ashland and Crumpler. The sewer project also supports businesses serving Hatfield-McCoy trail riders using the Indian Ridge Trail system.

A $2.3 million grant to the Ashland ATV Resort would be used to pay for mine reclamation work which could incorporate development of sites for cabins and other amenities for ATV riders.

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