A new recreational facility may be in the works for Mingo County residents and tourists to use. However, many factors have to come together for the project to come to fruition.
During the regular meeting of the Mingo County Commission on Wednesday, Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith discussed the possibility of developing a miniature golf course on Miner Mountain adjacent to the Mingo Central High School Athletic Complex.
Resources for the project would come from coal severance re-allocation funds. Money from this fund can only be used for economic development projects.
“I’ve put a lot of thought into this,” Smith said. “We are really stressing tourism and our new tourism committee is making great progress. But, the one thing I keep hearing is that after people finish a run or a ride, there is nothing else for them and their families to do.”
Smith said there needs be family-friendly attractions to offer visitors who come for the trail system, the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon or any other event in the county.
“This would be something that tourists coming into the area would love,” Smith said, citing the popularity of similar attractions in vacation destinations such as the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. “Not only would tourists use it, our local residents would enjoy it as well.”
Smith said his vision is for a professional, state-of-the-art course that is designed and themed for the area. He estimated the project to cost between $300,000 and $350,000.
Smith suggested using a piece of property along the King Coal Highway. He cited several factors as to why this property is suitable for the endeavor. Among those are that the property is flat land the county already owns, thereby greatly reducing the amount needed for site selection and preparation. Also, the property is out of the flood zone and is centrally located among all trail riding areas in the county (Delbarton, Gilbert, Matewan and Williamson).
Smith added that there is no other miniature golf course in the area and that the county would not be competing against any private business.
However, the biggest obstacle is that the land was given to the county for the specific purpose of building an emergency services outpost. Smith said that deed contains a reversion clause that would return the property back to the Mingo County Board of Education if not used for that purpose.
“We have not had the money to construct such a facility and it does not look like we are going to ever have the money to do that,” Smith said. “We would have to reach out to the school board to see if the members would give us a release from the clause.”
He said that, if the board was given certain incentives, then perhaps it would agree to the proposal.
“Most putt-putt courses have a batting cage. We could offer the use of that to the baseball and softball teams,” Smith said. “This project could also help the board pave a portion of the athletic complex’s parking lot through a memorandum of understanding.”
The commission agreed to put the project out to a couple of engineering firms used by the county which Smith said would conduct a feasibility study at no cost to the county. This would give the commissioners preliminary information such as cost, timeframes and site requirements among other things.
Smith said that once the county has all that information, a decision can be made as to whether such a project would be advantageous. If so, talks with the school board could begin at that time.
“I really think we have the funding to make this happen. We have the location,” Smith said. “I personally think this is a great idea and could be another feather in our cap.”