March 2021 | Vol. 1, Issue 3
A message from the Chairman of Southwest Regional Recreation Authority
Reminiscing & Celebrating Spearhead Trails – Part 2
We’ve come a long way since our first meeting regarding the creation of Spearhead Trails on Sept. 5, 2007. It has been just amazing to witness.
Today, we’re surrounded by insurmountable opportunities to market this region, and Spearhead Trails is, well, helping to blaze that trail.
A Forgotten, Mislabeled Region
Spearhead Trails provides a place and a vehicle for people to see this region that is oftentimes forgotten or mislabeled. We have people come from different states, some from Canada. The people out west have all that open BLM land — miles and miles of it. Here out east there’s no open land like that.
There are also new people that will be moving to the area that need to know about us. For example, Amazon is putting in its second headquarters in Fairfax, VA. I would like those people to know that they can come out here to get away from it all. We have small airports they can fly into and be here in no time.
Something for Everybody
I think we’ve got something for everyone that’s coming here, whether it’s bicycling, hiking, mountain climbing, ATV riding, or horse-riding trails.
There’s a place on the north fork of the Cumberland River where people come from all over to ride their horses. We stopped and visited one of the campgrounds that has a stable for about 70 horses. The owner said 40% of her customers were coming from California, Arizona and New Mexico. My initial reaction was, “They’re not pulling a trailer that far.” She responded, “Oh yes.” Then I got to thinking about it, and those people have never had the chance to ride in the shade of a tree as we have here. That’s another group of people we want to cater to.
The biggest challenge Spearhead Trails has is getting everybody to come on board with it because it’s still somewhat of a new concept. And we’re doing all we can to resolve any environmental concerns. We work closely with DEQ (Dept. of Environmental Quality). In fact, we recently hired an engineer to help us meet DEQ’s requirements. But there will always be naysayers. We’re just trying to get people to look at what could be and what can be.
Despite Pandemic, Outdoor Recreation Popular
The ATV permit sales are up tremendously. We’ve been averaging an increase of approximately 20-50% over the last few years. All outdoor activities have increased, despite COVID. I would like to see more people visit with their motorhomes and try it out. We have several campgrounds in the area. Anchor in one area and branch out. They can ride or hike several of our trails.
There’s also the historical aspect. We have the Daniel Boone Heritage Center and other sites that are perfect for the history buff to enjoy.
We’re only limited by our imagination. I think Executive Director Shawn Lindsey has conquered that so well during his time with us, just seeing what can be and then finding a way to make it happen. I just applaud him for that.
Sharing Southwest Virginia’s Beauty
Every time we open a trail system or develop something new, it’s just a thrill.
I remember when we opened Short Trail in Lee County. It’s hard to get an easement through it. It’s the roughest, but it has the greatest vista views of any of them. The day we opened in 2014 was the same day they had the premiere of the Big Stone Gap movie. For that, I was proud of our whole region.
When you drive through that gap in Norton, I tell people all the time it doesn’t matter if you’re coming from Norton or New York, when you come through that gap and gaze at that valley, it borders on a religious experience.
We’ve come a long way since our first meeting regarding the creation of Spearhead Trails on Sept. 5, 2007. It has been just amazing to witness.
But asking me what I feel has been our greatest accomplishment is kind of like asking “Who is your favorite child?” I’m so proud of all the progress we’ve made in so many of these communities. It’s really helped turn a lot of them around. But I truly feel like we’ve only just begun.
There are so many other opportunities, and I’m proud to be part of it.
Jack “Mack” McClanahan
Chairman, Southwest Regional Recreation Authority/Spearhead Trails
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Promotions & Hiring News
SRRA has one new hire and one promotion to announce.
New Trail Maintenance and Patrol Supervisor
Anthony Cantrell, who previously was Trail Ranger over the Mountainview Trail, was promoted to Trail Maintenance and Patrol Supervisor on March 8. He’s been with SRRA since August 11, 2020.
In his new position he’ll be managing the 6 rangers over the 6 trail systems, helping conduct compliance checks on the riders and monitoring the trails for maintenance needs. He’ll also be working with the retailers to facilitate the selling of trail permits.
Anthony, a resident of Clintwood, VA, previously worked two years for the Dickenson Country Sheriff’s Office. Prior to the that, he worked in the gas field industry for five years.
“I’ve enjoyed everything about my job so far,” said Anthony. “I’ve met people from about everywhere. They’ve all loved the trails. I’ve not run into anybody that hasn’t liked them.”
One of Anthony’s personal favorite areas in southwest Virginia is Breaks Interstate Parks, which Ridgeview Trail leads to. “The views from the overlooks, all the scenery, it’s like the Grand Canyon of the South. It’s beautiful,” he said.
He calls Shawn Lindsey “a real good director” of SRRA because of his willingness to listen to ideas from others and help out whenever possible.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” said Anthony. “I didn’t think I’d ever find a job doing what I love doing, but I did. Spearhead Trails is a great place to work.”
Anthony has been married for 21 years and has four teenagers. He said they hunt, fish and ride horses often.
New GIS Consultant Hired
Dave West came on board with SRRA in February as a part-time GIS Consultant to help improve current mapping and create new maps.
After working for about five years as a computer systems analyst for Healthcare Corporation of America in Nashville, he realized he didn’t like being inside all the time, so he moved to Florida to accept a job as a land surveyor. He discovered he had a natural knack for this line of work and fell in love with geography. But realizing in this job he was working in the “lowest level” of geography, he looked into what it would take to “rise in the ranks.”
That’s what prompted him to return to Tennessee and earn a master’s degree in geography from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. After securing his degree in 2007 and now armed with greater knowledge of mapping and geographic information systems, he moved back to Florida and worked a couple years as a GIS technician for Weiler Engineering in Marathon. Many more moves and job changes would follow.
Next, he worked for Dewberry Engineering in Washington, D.C., doing FEMA flood mapping. Then it was back to Tennessee again, this time to work a year as a seasonal employee with the U.S. National Park Service’s Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area on the 125,000-acre Cumberland Plateau.
At the conclusion of that job, he was hired as a GIS technician for the City of Athens, TN from April 2014 to September 2015. This is where he first met SRRA Executive Director Shawn Lindsey, who at the time was the Director of Public Works for the City of Athens and his supervisor. While there, Dave designed a couple of parks for him. But, when a job opened at Death Valley National Park, Dave thought that was “too good to pass up.”
After two years there he received an even better job opportunity and moved back across the country to work with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a scientific government organization based in Reston, VA that provides information about the earth — such as mapping, natural disasters, water and natural resources.
“All my life I’ve dreamed about working for USGS because it’s volcanos and earthquakes. What kid doesn’t get excited about that stuff?” said Dave. “With a degree in geography, you can work just about anywhere and do about anything you want to do. It’s a great job.”
After almost three years there he moved back to his hometown of Ten Mile, TN, about 50 miles southwest of Knoxville, with his wife and two young children. Not surprisingly, his son and daughter have a very nicely designed playground, thanks to their father’s skill set.
“It looks like Disneyworld out there,” quips Dave.
Now as a GIS Consultant for Spearhead Trails, Dave plans to use his “mad mapping skills” to help improve the recreational opportunities in the economically challenged areas of southwest Virginia.
“Their trail system is immense. It covers essentially the entire southwest section of Virginia,” said Dave, who’s currently working on updating the mapping of the Cumberland Trails. He’ll then turn his attention to assisting with the new archery range.
Dave is also excited to reconnect with Shawn. “Working with Shawn is an adventure. Shawn is super energetic. He has a lot of great ideas and he knows how to get them implemented. I know Shawn and I believe in Shawn. I can help him reach his goals of improving their maps and serving the local communities of southwest Virginia.”
In addition to his part-time SRRA work, Dave is an adjunct professor for Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, where he teaches introductory geography courses.
4 Steps for Preparing for the Spring Riding Season
It’s time to get ready for the spring riding season!
For those polar bears that ride all winter long, you probably you can just glance through this article. But for those that ride spring to fall, this article is for you!
1. Deciding when and where you want to ride. If you go to the Spearhead Trails website you can review trail descriptions and locations, decide which trail system you want to ride, and where you want to stay. This is also the time to decide if you want primitive camping, RV camping, bed and breakfast, a cabin, or a hotel. Many like to stay right on the trail, but those areas often book up months in advance, so this is why you need to find the lodging first. If you can’t find something right on the trail, you can always find something nearby. Choosing a nearby central location also gives you a great way to visit more than one trail. For example, if you stay in Norton, Big Stone Gap or Wise, you won’t be on a trail — but you’ll only be 15-30 minutes via a trailer to hit the Mountain View Trail out of Coeburn or Saint Paul, and the same distance to Stone Mountain in Pennington Gap, VA. You can also find plenty of extra activities in those areas, including fishing, kayaking, hiking on High Knob, or exploring the Cumberland Backroads. If you chose to ride Coal Canyon or Ridgeview Trail, remember these are connected and you have lots of places to stay in both Haysi and in Buchanan County in the Grundy area right on the trails. You also have the beautiful Breaks Interstate Park connected to the trail, but you have options to stay and Clintwood or Mountain View and be within 30 minutes of trailheads on either trail system. If riding the Original Pocahontas Trail System or Jawbone and Coal Canyon at Jewell Valley, then you can stay in the Richlands area, Tazewell, Lebanon or Bluefield if lodging is unavailable in one of the great resorts connected to the trails.
2. Make sure your side by side, four-wheeler or dirt bike is ready for riding. This needs to happen at least 2 weeks before your trip to give you enough time to fix any issues you may find. One of the things to remember is the state in which you stored your unit. In other words, did you drain the gas or place a fuel stabilizer in the tank? Did you only use straight gas? If you did not do one of these things, it might be best to first drain the old gas or treat it before you attempt to start it. Next, do a thorough inspection or have it serviced and inspected by a reputable mechanic. If doing it yourself, then here are some pointers from our lead mechanic at Spearhead Trails:
|▪||Check all fluids, including motor oil, antifreeze and brake fluid. Look for leaks as well.|
|▪||Check tires for proper air pressure and if they still hold air. Also check the tread and look for cracks and other signs of tire rot to see if they need to be replaced.|
|▪||Check the brake shoes. Brake shoes on an ATV or side-by-side will wear out faster than those on a car — which is not fun if you’re 20-30 miles back in the woods.|
|▪||Check your lights.|
|▪||Grease the A arms or suspension system. Make sure grease fittings accept grease. If they don’t, then the fitting could also be bad.|
|▪||Check your battery to see if it’s holding a charge.|
|▪||Test drive the unit on multiple days.|
|▪||Check your roll cage and make sure bolts are tight and check your seat belts.|
|▪||Repeat the above applicable procedures on your trailers, paying particular attention to the lights, tires and (if you have them) trailer brakes. Also be sure to grease the hubs.|
3. Prepare emergency kits. No matter how thorough your inspection, something can always go wrong, but these steps below will help you in an unfortunate event:
|▪||Never ride alone! It’s always best to ride in groups. If something happens, you can always send someone for help. Remember, depending on location and service provider, cell phones don’t always work on the trails. If you must ride alone, then make sure someone knows where you are and when you will check back with them so they will know whether or not to alert the authorities.|
|▪||When you get to the trails, it’s actually fairly easy to find friends and riding partners. You can also join the Spearhead Group on Facebook. This is a great way to find friends to ride with on the trails.|
|▪||Keep a mobile air compressor in each group and some tire plugs.|
|▪||Keep a set of jumper cables in each group or a small battery booster.|
|▪||Pack a first aid kit.|
|▪||Bring extra water for you and any of your riders.|
|▪||Pack extra fuses.|
|▪||Monitor the weather make sure you dress accordingly. Have a plan if you get stuck for several hours. Hypothermia can just as easily happen in the spring as fall or winter and often does — so prepare to stay dry and warm. Hypothermia can kill you in less than 30 minutes. It kills over 1,300 people annually in the U.S.|
|▪||Bring a winch and a tow strap (or ride with a friend who has them) just in case you break down. It’s expensive to hire a company to tow you out of a remote location. Rangers are not allowed to tow your unit off the trails.|
4. Check and make sure you have valid permits. Have your permits expired? If you ride multiple trail systems in different states, did you review the rules and secure any additional necessary permits? The last thing you want is to damper your outing by getting a ticket. Most of the rules are the same for many of the trail systems. These rules are designed to keep you safe, but there are some differences. Spearhead Trail rangers would rather not give tickets, but do so to protect you, other riders, and the property owners. In case you don’t know, most of the trails are on private property. The property owners donate easements or temporary land use agreements to Southwest Regional Recreation Authority of Virginia/Spearhead Trails on condition that we enforce certain rules. Below are some of the rules most commonly violated. Keep in mind this isn’t an all-inclusive list. (See the back of your waiver for a complete list and be sure to review them online here.)
|▪||Regardless of whether they’re a passenger or driver, everyone on the trails must have a current permit. We have discounted permits for those 12 and under and for veterans. Permits can be purchased online or at any of the permit retailers near our trails. Permits should be purchased before you arrive at the trail.|
|▪||Everyone must wear a DOT or Snell approved helmet on straddle units.|
|▪||Never ride off a trail or up a creek. Only cross creeks at approved trail crossings. This protects the environment and will protect you and the property owners (who having hunting leases near our trails), sensitive environmental areas, logging areas, construction in progress, infrastructures, or hazards.|
|▪||Never double up on a machine not built by the manufacturer for two people.|
|▪||Alcohol is not permitted on the trails.|
|▪||Fires are not allowed on the trails.|
|▪||Children should only be allowed to drive an age-appropriate unit and should never drive alone. An age-appropriate unit is defined by the age-restriction sticker on your machine. If this sticker has been removed or is missing, you can find a replacement by calling a local dealership or searching for one online.|
|▪||No reckless driving. Observe posted speed limits on the trails, as well as the posted speed on ATV-approved road. Watch for other warning signs.|
The Spearhead Trails rangers love seeing you and are always happy to answer any questions you have, whether it’s about the trails, things to do in the area off the trails, or questions about safety and trail rules. If you see a ranger, don’t be a stranger! Take time to say hi and chat with them. They often have pertinent information for the trail conditions of the day — which change rapidly with spring storms — and can arm you with the latest information to help you have an outstanding trip… instead of just a great one!
It’s vital we receive your donation to assist with several new initiatives. And you’ll be rewarded in 3 ways:
|1.||Your donation is tax-deductible.|
|2.||Recognition with a plaque located at the facility.|
|3.||Free day passes to any of our new indoor or outdoor recreational activities.|
Free Day Passes for Your Tax-Deductible Donation
Since Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (a.k.a., Spearhead Trails) is a nonprofit organization, generous support from community members like you is the only way we’re able to continue developing recreational activities that provide an enormous positive impact in our region. Our 600+ miles of trail systems throughout Southwest Virginia is currently producing an economic impact for the Commonwealth of Virginia of over $25 million annually and created more than 250 full-time jobs.
This spring we’ll be opening a 22,000+ square foot Activity Center in our new headquarters, currently under construction in Coeburn, VA (at the old Coeburn Home Supply warehouse). This facility will feature an axe throwing center, indoor skate park, and a climbing/bouldering gym — along with baseball and softball batting cages. This new Activity Center will host programs geared towards our youth, workforce, and tourists. It will be open from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., 7 days a week.
We’re also in the process of building new Sportsman Facilities in Clintwood, VA. This will include rifle, pistol and shotgun ranges of all types, as well as a variety of archery ranges. In addition, we partnered with Clintwood Bible Church to offer indoor archery year-round in their unused gymnasium.
Simply download this donation slip, choose which projects you would like to donate to, and return this slip with your donation. Once your donation is received, we’ll rush your free day passes to you. Regardless of what you choose to donate to, you can use your passes for any of these new activities.
In addition to monetary donations, you can also donate building supplies.
What a great way to meet your annual tax-deduction goals and enjoy recreational activities of your choice!
Join Spearhead Trailblazers
Please sign up below to be a volunteer with Spearhead Trailblazers. This is our friends’ group, and they do many activities to help the various communities we serve. Last year they participated in 16 events and raised over $600 funding for local charities (including P.A.W.S of Russell County, Toys for Tots, The Friends of the J. Fred Matthews Memorial Library, and the Town of Coeburn – Ringley Park). Spearhead Trailblazers was also able to donate over 300 hours for community service though the USDA – Forest, community projects, and the Adopt-a-Street program.