Some riders and residents upset over proposed Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in East Lynn

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 7:30 PM EDT
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WAYNE, W.Va. (WSAZ) - In the southern parts of Wayne County along East Lynn, outlaw riding isn’t just a hobby. It’s a way of life.

“We have beautiful country that you’re not going to be able to access, that people are never going to be able to see,” said one rider.

The Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority is a public corporation and an instrumentality of government set up to manage All Terrain Vehicle Trails (ATV) in 14 southern West Virginia counties. A proposal to maintain and manage trails in southern Wayne County is being presented to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has some riders frustrated and upset.

More than 11,500 signatures have been gathered online for those who are against the proposed expansion. Some say they don’t want to be regulated.

Here is a link to the petition.

Officials with the trail system say their proposal would expand their footprint in Wayne County by taking over existing trails in the East Lynn Lake area. If it goes through, they say it would close some routes (116 miles) but would provide a safe, legal place to ride. That includes 43 miles of existing trail and constructing another 5 miles.

“A 40-mile trail system is actually going to hurt the businesses who have already started to benefit from this,” said Alex Bennett, a rider from Columbus, Ohio.

Those who have spent their lives riding these trails, fear the takeover would take away miles of trail and tread on their experience.

“These are not friends. This is family,” said Nick Wolsonovich. “That’s why we continue to come down here. I bring my children here. My two youngest, they won’t be able to ride this no more. They enjoy it.”

A copy of the presentation from the meeting at Wayne High School earlier this month can be viewed here. In it are trail rules including; a required permit, daylight riding only, no riders under the age of 6, no alcohol and other restrictions.

“It’s a tradition that needs to be continued,” said Donald Maynard. His family is buried at the Jarrett Maynard Cemetery.

Along the trails are more than a dozen family cemeteries, dating back to at least the 1800s. State Sen. Mark Maynard from Wayne County plans to be buried at his family cemetery and is concerned because the proposal includes decommissioning trails that lead to the family plots.

“Forty-five minutes or an hour from the blacktop, but I figure I love this area so good that if somebody wants to visit my grave, they’re going to have to drive through the land that I love, to see me,” Maynard said. “Maybe it may spark an interest in them to also love this land.”

WSAZ spoke with trail officials about their concerns.

“In no instance would we ever close off a family’s ability to have ingress or egress to the gravesites of their relatives. We will work with you, we will work with the Corps,” said Jeff Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority. “We’re on the front end of this proposal, We’re still working with the Corps. The Corps will tell us how they want the ingress and egress to be to those sites; they will show us where they want those roads to be.”

He says the published maps in the proposal don’t tell the whole story. The plans are still in the early stages, and more work needs to be done. They intend to work on a case-by-case basis to help families maintain access if the proposal goes through.

“We will actually maintain and upkeep those roads to make sure the families can get there,” he said.

While the road ahead may not be clearly paved just yet, those who travel it often say they hope they will always have a path through these mountains that leads them home.

“We just do our best,” said Donald Maynard. “If it be the Lord’s will, he’ll let us be here next year.”

The deadline to provide public comment is Sept. 2. You can submit your information here.

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