Lots of folks wonder how a Hatfield-McCoy Trail is built. Despite myths and rumours to the contrary there is more to it than the uninitiated would imagine. I know. I have seen trails in the process and I have spoken with HMT’s Deputy Director John Fekete many a time about the process, which can be rather long and involved.
The first part of the process, after a decision is made on which county or town to place a trail system in or near is to find a large enough parcel of land to actually locate a trail system on. In addition to mere size, it helps if the property is owned by only one or two or three people. Sometimes this is easy in that many of the current trails are located on property owned by land companies.
It’s a lot easier for Hatfield-McCoy to deal with a big parcel of land with only one or two owners than it is to deal with multiple landowners on a proposed section of trail. You see, the less people to deal with the faster it goes because there will be less of a hold up on legal paperwork. Most lawyers generally bill by the hour and seldom get in a hurry over paperwork.
Getting signed agreements from property owners can be quick and easy or it can drag on so long it makes a proposed project unfeasible. One big holdup on the Harts, project, for example, was the fact that a LOT of small property owners would have had to have been dealt with individually.
The Hatfield-McCoy Trails are a public project on private property. In case you are wondering just why a property owner would let somebody build an ATV/UTV/Dirtbike trail on their property without pay, the answer is simple. They get liability insurance coverage! You see, many of the property owners in this area have their property posted “No Trespassing.” Problem is, people trespass anyway. It can be a major hassle and concern for property owners. But with Hatfield-McCoy as a partner, they get liability coverage and Rangers to help protect it. It’s a good deal for them and for HMT.
Next, the property itself is mapped out so that our Deputy Director John Fekete can get some ideas as to where different routes should go and what features the property offers. GPS coordinates are taken in this process, which is often done both on foot and on dirtbikes or UTVs. Needless to say, this process can be both labor and time intensive.
After a landowner agreements and mapping are completed it’s time to start moving earth! Despite what many people want to believe, there is a LOT more to making a Hatfield-McCoy Trail than just finding an old gas company road and trespassing on it.
Because the Hatfield-McCoy Trails follow federal guidelines there is sometimes a LOT of grading that has to be done, which means the field maintenance crew gets to work with dozers, graders and other heavy equipment.
Once that is done, the new section is ridden to find out if there are any changes that need to be made. Following that point, before it can be opened for the public, the different signs have to be installed. Johnny Fekete told me one time that the average Hatfield-McCoy Trail has around 500 signs! Once again, this is labor intensive and it can take time.
When you hear a local going on and on about how they “built those trails” by joyriding on somebody elses property remember all this. No, they didn’t. It took the field crew and heavy equipment and a LOT of hours and hours of manpower and elbow grease, along with some high tech equipment. Reality check. If it was as easy to do as that, would it take so long to build a trail system?
This is why it can take time for a new section of trail, like our eagerly awaited Pocahontas section to be built. When opened and completed, Pocahontas will be the southernmost trail system and it will make possible the longterm goal of connecting our different trails together. It’s taken a lot longer than anybody expected, but trust me when I say, it will definitely be worth the wait!
Now you know why building the best motorized trail system in North America takes a bit of time!