July 28, 2008

Boone County Booms With Economic Projects

By Williams, Walt

DANVILLE - Drivers Making their way along Corridor G (U.S. 119) may notice a new building near the Kanawha County-Boone County border, marking the beginning of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails system.

The new Boone County Trailhead Center is a 2,000-square-foot building that will serve as a main hub for ATV and dirt bike riders planning to use the trails. Built a scenic overlook area along Corridor G, the new building will likely open to the public Aug. 1.

"This will be a welcome center," said Larry V. Lodato, director of the Boone County Community and Economic Development Corp. "This will be the first stop coming from north to south in the whole trail system. People can stop here and get information. We're going to have brochure racks put in. This is more like a Boone County welcome center and a trail center."

The trailhead center is just one of three large projects taking place within three-quarters of a mile in Boone County at the moment, Lodato said. One is the construction of a $12 million, 51,000- square-foot Massey Energy headquarters also off Corridor G. The other is a proposed expansion of Water Ways Park, a water park that had 45,000 visitors last year alone.

The project that likely will reach completion first is the trailhead center. The building is mostly finished, with some remaining work to be done inside, including the completion of public restrooms and showers. There also are plans to pave the parking lot and erect a stone mound that will be topped with an ATV.

The inside already is decorated with several game trophies, including two black bears that look down on visitors from alcoves above each of the hallways. A central fireplace sporting a stone in the shape of West Virginia above the mantel dominates the main room.

The Hatfield-McCoy Trails system is a series of motorized trails stretching through southwest West Virginia. Together, the trails run for hundreds of miles and are open year-round.

The center itself is at the trailhead of the Little Coal River Trail system, which runs through some 65 miles of rugged countryside. The land on which the building is located was leased for five years to the Hatfield-McCoy Recreational Trails Authority by the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

The center will serve as a ranger's office and public information office for trail permits and brochures. It also will serve as a headquarters for souvenir sales, according to Lodato. The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, staffed by one full-time director and by part-time employees.

"This will be the actual retail center for the whole trail system," Lodato said. "So if you get online in Minnesota and you want a souvenir, a T-shirt, a mug - anything about the trails authority - it will be shipped out of this location."

Construction of the center cost morethan $477,000, with funding coming from three sources. The largest was $342,160 from the state. The Boone County Commission pitched in $50,000, while the Hatfield- McCoy Regional Recreation Authority gave $85,540.

The center was built by county government laborers and designed by E.L. Robinson Engineering of Charleston.

Boone County is the top coal-producing county in the state, with more than 8.8 million tons mined in the county between January and April of 2008, according to the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training. The decision by Massey Energy to build a headquarters there partly reflects that fact, with the company already employing about 1,500 people in the county.

Lodato said he sees the completion of the trailhead center and the expansion of Water Ways Park as building upon the county's tourism industry. Water Ways is right next to the trailhead center, giving families plenty of options for recreation when they visit the area.

Water Ways currently boasts two large downhill slides, a junior Olympic-sized pool, a lazy river, two kiddy pools, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a go-cart racetrack and picnic shelters. The park is adding several walking trails and plans to add an outdoor amphitheater in the immediate future.

Water Ways is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, although visitors should call ahead for days and hours from mid- to late August. Phone numbers are (304) 369-6125 for the main office or (304) 369-1235. The park also has a Web site - www.waterwayspark.com.

Copyright State Journal Corporation Jul 11, 2008

(c) 2008 State Journal, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.