TOLER, Ky. — Butch Leedy knows Pike County still has a bit of catching up to do if it’s going to compete for the tourism dollars that the Hatfield McCoy Trail System is already generating for nearby West Virginia.
But that doesn’t mean he thinks the project is an undoable undertaking or that its achievement will necessarily be years before becoming a reality.
Leedy knows Pike County is already replete with hundreds of miles of scenic trails that to a great extent are already being used by ATV enthusiasts.
He also knows the only real obstacle left to overcome is to fully develop and connect these independent trails into one huge system and then keep it all maintained in the years to come.
Leedy owns and operates Butch’s Auto Body Specialties at Toler and he just opened a lodging and off-road side-by-side/motorcycle business next door called “Trailblazers Outfitters.”
A ribbon-cutting/grand opening was held at the new business last Saturday, which was immediately followed by a trail ride and a cookout later in the day.
He and Jimmy Bevins, who Leedy said is spearheading the initiative, have been attempting to get the Pike County Trail System off the drawing board and into everyday use.
“It’s a really slow process getting all the logistics worked out,” Leedy said. “But we’ve been working with the Pike County Fiscal Court because it’s going to take funding and it’s also going to take getting some laws enacted before an official trail system can become a reality.”
Leedy said one law needed right away is one that exempts landowners from liability, specifically once the trail system user permits are sold to riders to generate the money necessary to maintain the trails.
“Right now there’s a law on the books that eliminates landowners from liability as long as no money is involved,” he said. “But after user permits are sold, which you have to have in order to develop and upkeep the trails, we would have to have a separate law to give them the same protection.”
Because he is within three miles of Mingo County and the Hatfield McCoy Trail System, Leedy said his new business is already accommodating trail riders coming into the Tug Valley area from other states. In fact, he’s already had groups from Indiana and North Carolina stay at the lodge.
He said another group, a film crew from California recently in the area to shoot a commercial for ATV manufacturer Textron Industries, rented six side-by-sides to use in the mountains where the commercial was filmed.
“There is still a lot of work to do to get the trail system here in Pike County, but I really believe all you have to do is look to West Virginia to see the worth of a project like this and the work it takes to get it done,” he said.
“I mean, what it worth is to have 50,000 people come to your area year-round to spend their money. It would be just a huge boost to our economy?”
Leedy said his lodging accommodations are suited for the needs of either a large group or small family of riders.
“We have a house that sleeps a total of eight people that would be more suited for a family who might want more privacy,” he said. “The lodge has separate rooms and a common area with a large T.V. screen and free Wi-Fi, as well as a common kitchen.
Leedy said the lodge has separate bathrooms for men and women as well, but like the kitchen and lounging areas they also provide common usage.
The cost for the house is $200 a night for two people and a supplementary $25 a night for each additional person. The lodge has two private rooms at a cost of $75 per room for two people, with a $25 add-on for each additional person, Leedy said.
Two other lodge rooms, he pointed out, are hostel-style, or dormitory-type rooms, and cost $50 per night per person.
Leedy said the wood-paneled interiors of both the house and lodge including the all the trim work, even down to the beds themselves, were painstakingly handmade for a rustic feel as well as for sturdiness.
“Something like Trailblazers Outfitters is a really good investment because we are so close to the Hatfield McCoy Trails,” he said. “But with that said, we’re all hoping we can take advantage of what we have in Pike County because of the economic impact it will eventually have here.”