When the Hatfields and McCoys participated in the bloodiest feud in American history, neither they nor the people who lived around them could have ever known that an event of such negative proportions would make an even more positive impact on the economy of eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia a century later.
Descendants of the two families and community leaders have worked diligently to make the legend of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud a viable business network, including a driving tour, sporting events, and a trail system.
The most popular endeavor is the now complete 500-mile maze of mountainous trails for hiking, motorized vehicle riding, and horseback riding called the Hatfield-McCoy Trails System, which first opened with two sections in 2000.
Eventually, the Hatfield-McCoy Trails System will span three states—West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia. Six counties in Kentucky are currently pushing for the necessary legislation to join the trail system. Pike County, which borders Mingo County, West Virginia, has $100,000 in coal severance tax money set aside in this year’s state budget for construction and planning of its initial connectors, which could be in South Williamson or Buskirk, towns that border Mingo County towns with trail access, according to Pike County Magistrate Chris Harris.
Harris represents Pike County’s sixth district, the home of many historic Hatfield-McCoy Feud sites and the heart of the Hatfield-McCoy Driving Tour. Harris says that Pike County is excited about the trail system crossing the Tug River into Kentucky.
“We have to be very careful to preserve the integrity of these historic sites,” Harris says about constructing trails near the historic offerings. Pike County officials would like to plan the trails so that riders can park their ATVs and dirt bikes, then walk to the Hatfield-McCoy sites.
“We want you to be able to come off the West Virginia trails onto the Kentucky trails and not know the difference,” he explains.
Martin, Letcher, Harlan, Floyd, and Johnson counties plan to join Pike County in developing sections of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails System.
“It’s an overall economic stimulus,” Harris says. “It will bring more attention to eastern Kentucky, Pike County, and Hatfield-McCoy historic tourism.”
An economic stimulus is definitely what the trail system has been for southern West Virginia. Between July 1, 2003, and June 30, 2004, the trail system sold more than 21,000 permits. Trail permits range in price from $18 for a one-day permit, to $35 for a three- to seven-day permit. West Virginia residents can get an annual permit (ride any time, year-round) for $25 and out-of-state riders can purchase an annual permit for $75.
Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority Executive Director Matthew G. Ballard says the Hatfield-McCoy Trails are popular because the trails are professionally developed and offer a high standard of safety, which includes its own law-enforcement team in addition to well-marked and well-maintained trails. A vacation on the trails is something a family can do together, and every experience is unique.
For more information about the Hatfield-McCoy Trails System, click here: www.trailsheaven.com