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Researchers at Marshall’s Center for Business and Economic Research recently completed a study for the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority, concluding the authority’s trails contribute an estimated $22.2 million to West Virginia’s economy each year, approximately 85 percent of which is attributable to non-local visitor spending.

According to Elizabeth Pardue, a demographic research specialist at the center, the study gave the authority’s leaders valuable information.

For example, researchers found the total economic impact of the trails increased nearly 74 percent since CBER did a similar analysis in 2006.

“The Hatfield-McCoy Trails system provides the state an increasing economic and fiscal benefit due to its operations and the visitors it attracts,” said Pardue. “In addition to the quantified impacts, we also observed improvements in regional economic characteristics – including growth in per capita income and labor force participation that has exceeded changes statewide – in the seven West Virginia counties with a current trails presence.”

Jeffrey Lusk, the authority’s executive director, added, “The idea that our project is providing that much impact in the local economy was truly impressive. We have always known that our riders and activities made a net positive impression on the economy and that the trails’ presence created jobs and economic development, but the fact we had grown so much since our last study and that the impact had increased so much during that period was truly a surprise.”

CBER provides economic research to the public, private and non-profit sectors, and specializes in the areas of energy, policy, education and health.