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Hatfield McCoy Trails

Lusk Emerges as National Trail Development Expert, Leader

Jeffrey Lusk
Jeffrey Lusk

GILBERT, WV – Ten years ago, the idea that southern West Virginia had a bright future as an outdoor recreation destination for self-proclaimed “family adventurers” was just a dream.  Today this region boasts a powerful and positive impact on local economies and quality of life, thanks to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System.  Other states are taking notice, and they know they need to talk to Jeffrey Lusk.

Lusk is the Executive Director of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority.  A quiet and unassuming man, he finds himself increasingly sought after as an expert spokesman for ATV-based tourism development; and with Hatfield-McCoy being one of the biggest ATV networks in the country, it’s no wonder more people are calling his number.  Consumers spend an estimated $10 million per year for lodging, permits, meals, machine repairs and fuel when visiting the West Virginia trail system.

“There was a dream a decade ago that the coalfields of our state could reinvent themselves,” said Lusk, “and we’ve done it.  This was one of the most isolated and economically depressed regions in the country, and people see how we have turned ourselves around.  Our model is getting attention, and it should.”

The model is a public-private partnership designed by the West Virginia State Legislature in 2000.  Over 80% of riders last year came from outside of West Virginia, and total permit sales have increased every year for the past nine years, with over $1 million in rider permit sales in 2009.  “We receive some public financial support, but we always view our activities through the lens of entrepreneurship,” said Lusk.  For example, the town of Gilbert has a population of only 450 people, and yet it has welcomed 8 new lodging businesses since becoming connected to the trail system.  Over 40 new lodging providers open along the system since the inception of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails.

The Authority operates six systems representing approximately 500 miles of trails. Each system is open 365 days a year to ATVs, dirt bikes, utility terrain vehicles (UTVs), mountain bikes, horses, and hikers. Many of the trail systems also offer community connecting trails that allow visitors to access “ATV-friendly towns” to experience the charm of southern West Virginia.

In difficult economic times, everyone is looking for vacation value.  Lusk believes the compelling thing for West Virginia is how bargains for individuals are translating into tremendous tourism revenue for the state. In July 2009, The Wall Street Journal highlighted ATV trails and their development as economic drivers nationwide.

Today, West Virginia is an industry leader in ATV tourism.  “The original authorizing legislation for our trail system directed cooperation with Kentucky and Virginia in developing a super-regional system, and I am thrilled with the start up of similar projects across our borders,” said Lusk.  He anticipates that collaboration with other states will allow West Virginia to prosper even more through the development of thousands of miles of trails for the common benefit of a super-trail region.  He frequently makes himself available to other states to talk about West Virginia’s work in ATV trail development, and especially to help other regions struggling with persistent economic development challenges to set their strategic plans.
“Some people seem surprised at my interest in helping other parts of the country,” said Lusk.  “It’s no mystery, really.  I love what I do, and I believe West Virginia is uniquely positioned to help similarly challenged regions.  And eventually, the more people who want to ride the trails, the more people who will find their way to Hatfield-McCoy.  All trails lead here eventually.”

Prior to becoming the Executive Director of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority, Mr. Lusk was the Executive Director of the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority for eleven years.  Mr. Lusk earned a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Marshall University; he also has undergraduate degrees from Penn State University and the West Virginia University Institute of Technology.  He is a Certified Economic Developer; a Certified Community Developer; and an Economic Development Financing Professional.  He serves on community boards and authorities and Co-Chaired the West Virginia Vision Shared Entrepreneurship Development Committee for several consecutive years.

Mr. Lusk is an expert in the following:

  • Developing public-private partnerships to support economic development in rural areas
  • Physical development of trails, planning and scheduling of resource (manpower and heavy equipment); estimating the cost of trail development
  • Working with your state legislature to develop supportive legislation
  • Negotiating land use permissions with private landowners in trail development
  • Encouraging entrepreneurs in cluster businesses
  • Working with local government to support business development
  • Safety and law enforcement challenges on trail systems
  • Managing permitting
  • Marketing the trail system
  • Human resources requirements for trail systems
  • Promotional events
  • Emerging trends in the ATV industry

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