With the possibility of tens of millions of dollars looming, southwest Virginia is taking advantage of an untapped tourism market for ATV riders.
By mid-summer, Spearhead Trails will open its first ATV trail system, known as Mountain View. It's a totally new way to see our beautiful, scenic region.
From the first look, a vehicle being unloaded for a trail ride is not what one thinks of when you say ATV. It's called a side-by-side all terrain vehicle, completely different from the typical straddle-type. "The side-by-side market has really grown in recent years. A variety of manufacturers comes out with different types of side-by-sides to suit everything from a family machine to a racing machine," says Chris Sturgill, field operations supervisor for Spearhead Trails.
It's a perfect way to view part of 70 miles of trails in the final stages of completion, just part of Spearhead Trails.
It's an ambitious seven-county effort to draw those ATV riders to our region, especially those riding side-by-sides. "The industry is changing and that's why you're seeing so much growth out there in terms of trail systems. The ATV you see behind me is a four-seater. Families are getting more into it, couples," executive director Chuck Riedhammer of the Southwest Virginia Recreation Authority said.
And rather than see those families and those from across the southeast spend their money elsewhere, why not draw them to southwest Virginia? "Four years of work has gone into this initiative. We're really excited about getting the trail system on and letting people come in here and ride and enjoy the region and the beauty we have to offer," Riedhammer says.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable trip is the job of Chris Sturgill. "Everything from easement, to trail maintenance, to security, to policing the system trash-wise. Making sure everything is exactly what the riders want," he said of his role in the project.
And for the Mountain View trail, what they want a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and the thrill of just getting there, no matter your skill level. "We offer a variety of trails from the easiest for someone who just bought a side-by-side or ATV to come out and enjoy the trails, to the advanced rider that wants to come out and be challenged on some of our trails," Sturgill said.
The real challenge comes with trying to see all that you can see riding along the Mountain View trail.