The Hatfield-McCoy Trails reopened last week for the Memorial Day holiday weekend following the COVID-19 shutdown. Riders from across the country rolled into Mingo County to take advantage of the recreational opportunities and business owners welcomed the riders back.
Cameron Ellis, with Twin Hollows Campground, Trail 12 BBQ and Mountain Top Adventures, was excited and yet cautious as his facilities reopened.
“We couldn’t be happier the trails are opened again,” Ellis said. “The campground is completely filled. But, it is a whole new world for me and other business owners as we try to reopen. None of us have ever had to go through anything like this before.”
While there are no vacancies at Twin Hollows (which is located in the southern end of Mingo County in Gilbert), Ellis said he could have accommodated another 100 people had it not been for the restrictions that are still in place.
“To be able to ensure everyone’s safety, our primitive campsites and bathhouses are closed right now,” he continued. “We are only renting our cabins and sites to fully contained RVs.”
Ellis’ companies have been able to weather the COVID-19 storm, but others have not been so lucky.
“People from our local community have been really supportive to us and have ordered from the restaurant a lot. Also, my grandfather lived through the Depression so he learned to put things back and to plan for the long haul. He passed that on to my father (who owns and operates Twin Hollows),” Ellis said. “That has helped us tremendously. But, some businesses — even some right here in Gilbert — will not be reopening.”
He estimates the economic loss of tourism-generated revenues in southern West Virginia over the past two months to be in the tens of millions of dollars once things settle down and calculations are completed.
Gilbert CVB Executive Director Victoria Surber agreed with Ellis about the importance of the tourism and the trail system on the local economy.
“All of the visitors are blessings to our town and we welcome them here,” Surber said. “We are excited to see all the riders coming in to ride the trails and to visitor our wonderful town once again.”
Surber spent part of the week working on plans for National TrailFest which is scheduled to be held in October. She said the event is still scheduled and plans will continue to be developed unless the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are put in place again for some unknown reason.
On the northern end of the county, Williamson CVB Executive Director Wes Wilson also hailed the return of the trail riders.
"We're beyond thankful for the return of our trail riders and the reopening of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. Over the course of the last few weeks, many people were brought to the realization of just how important tourism is to our area,” Wilson said. “I was thrilled to see the huge numbers of folks flooding the trail heads (near Williamson), something we hadn't seen in that capacity since Dirt Days in April 2019. Provided things keep heading in the direction they are with the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe we'll see great numbers throughout the remainder of our riding season as folks, now more than ever, want to get outside."