The Hatfield Mccoy Trail System Tourism Essay

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The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System has become a major tourism attraction and an economic boon for the southwestern area of West Virginia. Communities there are seeking to sustainably develop the area to provide services for Hatfield-McCoy Trail visitors. Managers and planners must anticipate the unique demands from this group of recreationists. Analyzing visitor preferences will allow these communities to plan effectively.

Preliminary findings indicate that Hatfield-McCoy users are highly specialized, experienced riders that plan multiple day trips to the system. Initial analysis shows visitors average over 14 years of riding experience and spend over $1300 per year on off-highway vehicle (OHV) equipment. Initial data also suggest that 88% of trail users will return within the next 12 months.

Survey collection is ongoing as of June, 2012, and additional study will include importance performance analysis of Hatfield-McCoy trail features, lodging preferences, and sources of information used for trip planning.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 Background

The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System (HMTS) was opened in the year 2000 by the West Virginia legislature to generate economic development through tourism for the counties of Logan, Kanawha, Wyoming, McDowell, Mercer, Wayne, Lincoln, Mingo, and Boone (CBER 2006). The area served by the trail system is one of most poverty stricken regions in the U.S. with incomes, wages and earnings well below the national and West Virginia averages. In 2004, while West Virginia's per capita income was only 78 % of the national average, the Hatfield-McCoy region's was only 63%. For earnings, West Virginia was only 68% of the national average and the study region's was only 48% (CBER 2006). The Hatfield-McCoy Trails are a major factor in improving the economic conditions of the area.

The trail system is a multi-use system that provides recreation opportunities for many different types of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) such as all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), side by side utility vehicles (UTVs), and dirt bikes; however trails are open for mountain bikers, horseback riders, and hikers to use as well. The trails create the biggest system of its kind on the East Coast and the second largest in the nation (Wilcox, 2011) with visitors arriving from surrounding states such as Kentucky, Virginia, and Ohio, while some visitors travel as far as Canada.

Currently there are six of the nine WV counties (Wyoming, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Logan, and Boone) with over 600 miles of off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails. The HMTS has become a major service sector creating a financial advantage for these counties and for the state of West Virginia. An IMPLAN analysis of the economic impact of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System on West Virginia showed an increase in income of $2,789,036 and the generation of 146 new jobs (CBER 2006). These increases would not have happened in the absence of the trail system.

1.2 Problem Statement

As participation in OHV recreation on the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system has grown, it has rapidly outstripped the available riding facilities and complementary businesses within the hosting communities. The purpose of this research will be to examine visitor preferences of the OHV riders of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, in addition to importance-performance information of trail features and facilities to asses the level of consumer satisfaction with the trail system in order to increase the amount of information on OHV riders and their lodging preferences, which can be used to create better opportunities for accommodating the Hatfield McCoy visitor.

The study identifies a need for information that would allow hosting communities to be prepared in making more effective decisions that improve the quality of recreation experiences, lodging preferences, and sources of information used for trip planning. Essentially, in using the information created by the present study, it confirms that Hatfield-McCoy users are experienced and inherently specialized recreationists whose goals are different than typical OHV users, and will help managers and planners to anticipate the unique demands of this group.

1.3 Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this research is to improve management and planning of Hatfield-McCoy Trail System (HMTS) communities by providing managers with information that will aid in the development of facilities, businesses, and riding areas that meet the needs of OHV riders in an effective and sustainable manner. To fulfill this purpose, several objectives will be met:

To determine lodging preferences of Hatfield-McCoy visitors;

To determine the experience level, and spending characteristics of Hatfield-McCoy OHV riders;

To identify group size, hours traveled, frequency, and seasonality of visits to the HMTS;

To identify the importance and satisfaction of HMTS facilities and features to OHV riders;

To identify information sources most used by Hatfield-McCoy visitors;

Chapter 2: Literature Review

The purpose of this literature review is to explore research that is relevant to the present study.

To provide context for the project an overview of OHV use in the United States and current Forest Service OHV publications are summarized. Then recreation perspectives and the theory of specialization which will be applied to project will be reviewed. Finally, a review is done of studies that have applied economic impact analysis related to OHV recreation and which provide a basis for comparison with this research.

2.1 Overview

Outdoor recreation is one of the fastest growing economic activities in the nation. Last year over $33 billion was spent on outdoor recreation equipment. Over 159 million individuals in the U.S. participated in 18.3 billion outdoor recreation experiences (CBER, 2006). An important element of outdoor recreation is the activity that takes place on trails. A recent study (Outdoor Industry Foundation, 2006) estimated that 72% of Americans aged 16 and older participated in an outdoor activity in 2005, with hiking, running and bicycling on trails being three of the most frequently reported activities, however, OHV recreational use on trails is also growing in popularity.

In the first nationwide recreational study in 1960 by the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment off highway vehicle recreation was not included because levels of OHV use were so low (Hammit and Cole, 1998). OHV use first entered the recreational scene in the 1970s with 5.3 million user days being recorded on U.S.D.A Forest Service land (Feuchter, 1980, as cited in Silberman and Anderek, 2006). Cordell (1999) reported that in 1994/95 14% of Americans 16 years and older, 27.9 million participates engaged in off-road driving. The Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA) estimates that ATV sales have increased over 280% nationwide in the US since 1994 (SVIA, 2006). Participation in ATV recreation is expected to continue to increase across the US through 2015 (Cordell, et al, 2005). This sort of recreational participation assures future demand for off-highway trail systems, with OHV recreation being recognized as one of the faster growing outdoor activities, the National Survey of Recreation in the Environment (NSRE) (Cordell et al., 2008).

Although off-highway vehicle recreation is becoming a favorite pastime it comes with its share of environmental issues like noise pollution, air pollution, and soil erosion. With such rapid growth, the necessity for available riding facilities becomes apparent. It has been a challenge for many public land management agencies to provide adequate areas for OHV use. Conflict emerges between OHV users, and other types of outdoor recreationists (hikers, birdwatchers, wildlife hunters, etc.) who feel that the land should be preserved. While the positions of the interest groups may differ, they typically share the concern that OHV use be carried out responsibly (Cordell et al., 2008). Trail systems like the Hatfield-McCoy trails in West Virginia are an important component when it comes to management of off-highway vehicle recreation.

The overall goal of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails is to establish a world class OHV trail system while focusing on safety by providing discipline and structure for the sport (Lusk, 2006). An expansion plan for the trail system calls for 2,000 miles of trails with appropriate facilities and an Off-Highway Vehicle Park located in Kanawha County (CBER 2006). Local communities are seeking to sustainably develop the area to provide services for Hatfield-McCoy visitors. Studying tourist preferences will allow these communities to plan successfully for these inherently specialized recreationists.

2.2 Recreation Perspectives

In defining varieties of recreation visitors possibly will find more desired than others, it is important to recognize the needs and anticipations the participants have of the experience. Goodale and Godbey (1988) suggested the following eight variables that may be involved in determining a type of recreation: self-improvement, pleasure, socialization, identification, creativity, recovery, consumption, and spiritual.

Understanding social diversity, or relative distribution of the interrelation or independence of interests, is necessary in obtaining an understanding of the recreationist (Carpenter, 1985). An individual or family's culture, income, social status, age, gender roles, and/or employment status can all have effects on recreation preference (Hanson and Hanson, 1981). As recreationists age, their necessities and choices change (Carpenter, 1985). As identified by Goodale and Godbey (1988), "They sometimes center much of their lives and identities around their sports or hobbies" (p. 234).

Opportunity may have been an additional influential aspect in recreation decision making too. According to Hendee (1969), opportunity theory expresses the idea that recreationists partake in whatever experiences are easily obtainable. Goodale and Godbey (1988) furthermore thought time and travel distance were significant variables, as well as travel costs. Travel costs can be comprehended differently including automobile costs, opportunity cost during travel, or a per mile fee (Hagerty and Moeltner, 2005). The National Park Service endorses a developed tourism experience by deliberation of the following: accommodations, access roads, trails to remote locations, and trails for general recreation (Shivers, 1967).

One other influential factor in selecting recreation is the anticipated experience to be acquired. There is a necessity for a person to pursue a brief ultimate experience. Clearly stated by Andrews and Nowak (1980, p. 286)... "I do not think there is anybody here that does not get a kind of sensual jolt out of going over a little bump at 60 miles an hour because your whole body responds and you feel a little bit different than you did when you started." A single illustration of this understanding is the use of OHVs on particular trail systems with various skill level ratings. This type of experience is regarded as extreme sports, a recreation that delivers a departure from basics and meets with endurance and sometimes danger (Andrews and Nowak, 1980).

2.3 Specialization

The concept of specialization is used by recreation researchers to describe the way in which participants incorporate an activity into their life. Specialization is defined by Bryan (1977, as cited in Manning, 1999) as "a continuum of behaviour from the general to the particular, reflected by equipment and skills used in the sport and activity setting preferences". Manning (1999) also states that specialization can consist of a number of elements, such as experience level, skill/ expertise, involvement/ commitment, and centrality to lifestyle. This study looks at the visitor preferences of lodging, trail facilities, and information sources, as well as, frequency of participation, years of participation, and participation at selected trails to help determine specialization. Highly specialized participants will have different goals, participation habits and spending levels than less specialized participants. OHV recreation is a significant part of many participants' life style. It is believed that OHV riding offers opportunities for the participants to connect with friends and family, reduce stress, and enjoy nature (Baker, 2007). This study will help recreation managers and entrepreneurs understand the OHV tourism market.

2.4 Economic Perspectives

In yield to the use of recreational services to economic analysis there is trouble in defining the amount utilized and the importance of its presence (Miles and Seabrooke, 1977). In the likelihood that a tourist stay overnight, the immediate communities may possibly be affected directly through spending at restaurants, lodging, and retail outlets. Suppose a tourist enjoys his or her time recreating, by word of mouth a new visitor may possible be enticed and in return may add additional external money into the local economy. In respect to cost-benefit relation, recreationists will pay for the facilities needed to accommodate them for the duration of their visit, therefore generating a positive net benefit for the local and surrounding communities (Liu, 2006).

3.1 Plans to Visits the HMTS within the Next 12 Months

3.2 Preferred Information Source (Mean Score for preference on a 7 point scale)

3.3 Lodging Preference by Percentage

3.4 Hours Traveled

3.5 Self-Reported Level of Experience

3.6 Self Report Spending Measures





Approximately how much do you spend on an average trip to Hatfield-McCoy Trails?





Approximately how many times per year do you use your OHV?





Valid N (listwise)


5.0 Citations

Andrews, R.N.L., and Nowak, P.F. (1980). Off-Road Vehicle Use: A Management Challenge. Michigan: University of Michigan.

Baker, J. L. (2007). Motivations, Resource Attribute Preferences, and Characteristics of Off-Highway Vehicle Riders in New York State. State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry Syracuse, New York.

Carpenter, G.M. and Howe, C.Z. (1985). Programming Leisure Experiences: A Cyclical Approach. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Cordell, H. K., Betz, C. J., Green, G., & Owens, M. (2008). Off-highway recreation in the United States, Regions and States: A national report from the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE). USDA Forest Service, Southern Experimental Station.

Center For Business and Economic Research- Marshall University (2006) The Economic Impact of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System in West Virginia - The Hatfield~ McCoy Regional Recreation Authority

Goodale, T.L., and Godbey, G. (1988). The Evolution of Leisure: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives. State College, PA: Venture Publishing.

Hagerty, D. and Moeltner, K. (2005). Specification of Driving Costs in Models of Recreation Demand. Land Economics, v81, no. 1. Wisconsin Press.

Hammit, W.R. & Cole, D.N. (1998). Wildland recreation: ecology and management. New York: John Wiley and Sons

Hanson, S. and Hanson, P. (1981). The Travel-Activity Patterns of Urban Residents: Dimensions and Relationships to Sociodemographic Characteristics. Economic Geography, v57, no.4. Clark University.

Hendee, J.C. (1969). Rural Urban Differences Reflected in Outdoor Recreation Participation. Rural Sociological Society.

Liu, T.V. (2006). Tourism Management: New Research. New York, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Lusk, J. "Financial Plan for Future Growth and Development of the Hatfield~McCoy Trail System," (July, 2006), Hatfield~McCoy Regional Recreation Authority.

Manning, R.E. (1999). Studies in outdoor recreation: Search and research for satisfaction. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press.

Miles, C.W.N., and Seabrooke, W. (1977). Recreational Land Management. London: E and FN Spoon Limited.

Outdoor Industry Foundation. (2006). Outdoor Recreation Participation Study. Eighth edition for year 2005. Outdoor Industry Foundation, Boulder, CO. Referenced online from


Shivers, J.S. (1967). Principles and Practices of Recreational Service. New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company.

Silberman, J. & Andereck , K. L, (2006). The Economic Value of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation. Journal of Leisure Research; Second Quarter 2006; 38, 2; ABI/INFORM Global pg. 208.

Specialty Vehicle Institute of America. (2006). Specialty Vehicle Institute of America: Special report 2006 (ATV statistics). Irvine, CA: Specialty Vehicle Institute of America. Retrieved November 8, 2006 from /