Multi-use recreational trails in the Southwest Regional Recreation Area
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TV Show to feature ATV trails initiative

An ambitious regional trails project is gaining steam, one inch at a time.

The Southwest Regional Recreation Authority, or SRRA, anticipates that its Spearhead Trails network’s first all-terrain vehicle system Mountain View – will open this June. Permits are expected to begin being sold sometime this May.

The trail network traverses about 3 ,000 acres that surround Dominion’s power plant in Virginia City.

Touted locally, the trail system will also receive some national attention later this month. Fisher’s ATV World, an adventure TV series on the Outdoor Channel Network, will highlight Mountain View during a March 25 episode that will air at 4 p.m. and 9: 30p.m.

The system’s off icial unveiling later this year is also just the beginning of a much broader effort, according to SRRA Executive Director Chuck Riedhammer. More trails are expected to come online next year at sites in Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee and Tazewell counties.

The authority’s end goal is to produce about 800 miles of ATV trails and 200 miles of equestrian trails throughout the seven-county region.

TRAIL SUPERVISOR

As construction nears for several of these projects, the authority is seeking a field operations supervisor to oversee trail design, construction and maintenance and policy enforcement.

Riedhammer said Tuesday that he has received a dozen or so applications and hopes to have the position filled by the end of this month.

Part of the supervisor’s job duties will involve overseeing trail security throughout the region, noted Riedhammer. He said the authority plans to hire rangers – one or two initially – and use off-duty officers from each county’s sheriff’s office, when available.

Policing agreements with Buchanan. Dickenson and Wise counties have been secured, he added.

Volunteers will also be needed to serve as trail ambassadors, Riedhammer and said he wants to create an appropriate blend between education and enforcement on the trails.

FUNDING UPDATES

As logistical planning continues, the authority is still awaiting a decision by the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority regarding a $1.4 million grant that would help implement Phase I of the ATV and equestrian trail systems in Wise, Dickenson and Buchanan counties.

Each county has pledged support for the allocation. Wise County has agreed to allot $3 11 ,599 of its VCEDA funds; Dickenson County $512,602; and BuchananCounty $581,440.

unds from Wise County would be used for trail construction at Mountain View, and Buchanan and Dickenson counties’ funds would be used for trail planning and engineering purposes. The money would also help identify project stakeholders that, in many cases, involve natural resource industries.

Last December, Riedhammer asked VCEDA’s board of directors to postpone a decision about SRRA’s funding request. He said more negotiations were needed with industries whose operations are located near the planned trails. In many cases, the trails are being built on land that is subleased to coal , gas, oil and timber companies. Riedhammer said Tuesday that many of these concerns have been resolved, and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association has provided VCEDA a letter indicating its satisfaction with discussions between the association and SRRA.

Riedhammer anticipates asking VCEDA to revisit the funding request at its April meeting.

GRANT AWARDS

Riedhammcr also noted some other recent grant funds the authority has received.

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development has awarded SRRA a $50,000 building collaborative communities grant that will help the authority develop a better online presence, including improving its website and social media presence. Phase I of the new website will be unveiled within the next two weeks , and Riedhammer said the redevelopment will make it easier for fol ks to navigate the site. Future phases will allow people to purchase permits and merchandise, access trail information and download maps. Riedhammer also wants to create a regionwide trails database on the site that would highlight ATV, equestrian, hiking, biking, birding and geocaching sites.

The authority has also received a $100,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission that Riedhammer said will serve as investment seed money to help the authority work toward becoming a self-sustaining entity, which he hopes to accomplish within five years.

SRRA-Star-Story-3-13 (PDF)