O. L. "Leff" Moore and the Development of the Innovative Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area

O. L. “Leff” Moore was the “father” of the Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area, the most innovative motorized trail system in the eastern United States. Leff was the recipient of the 2008 Hulet Hornbeck Award at the 19th International Trails Symposium.

Less was the principal propagator of the vision, the partnership maker, the fundraiser, and the support generator of the Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area. He was the organizer and energizer of the development effort. No one has contributed more to the realization of the Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area than Mr. Moore, who passed away in the Spring of 2004.

The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System is a developing 2,000-mile motorized trail system (500+ miles presently developed) in southern West Virginia that generates more than 100,000 user days a year (2007) and over $800,000 in permit fees. Through the creation of an extensive public-private partnership, the public trails are located on the vast tracts of corporate-owned land in the nine-county project area. The trails are professionally designed and managed to provide a unique experience for off-highway motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle riders. In addition, equestrians, mountain bicyclists, hikers, and other trail users have also utilized the trail system. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System has put southern West Virginia on the map as a highly desirable tourism destination, boosting the region’s economy just as skiing and white-water rafting have done in other parts of the state. The total economic impact of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System in 2005 was an increase of output of $7,776,116, an increase in income of $2,789,036 and the generation of 146 new jobs.

Mr. Moore was a native West Virginian with a passion for his fellow native West Virginians. Born in Putnam County, West Virginia, he was a graduate of Winfield High School and attended West Virginia State College. . He was a well-respected advocate for the recreational vehicle industry and the safe operation of recreational vehicles, most notably ATV’s, representing local, state and national interests in his role as executive director of the West Virginia Recreational Vehicle Association.

Mr. Moore’s vision of the future and his effective leadership contributed greatly to the success of Putnam County’s growth and prosperity. As a county commissioner (1977-1982) he fought to provide basic services such as water and sewer improvements, ambulance service, a public sanitary landfill, the expansion of the County Parks and Recreation system and funding to secure the building of Putnam General Hospital. For his contributions, he was the only two-time recipient to receive the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce coveted Mayo Lester Award.

As stated earlier, Mr. Moore worked tirelessly as the founder and has been credited for the amazing success of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Trail system in southern West Virginia and beyond. His objectives since he started the effort in 1991 were:

  • To expand recreational opportunity by creating the finest recreational trail system in the world;
  • To enable innovative public-private partnerships through which the region’s vast private land holdings can be utilized to more effectively benefit both the landowners and the communities; and
  • To utilize the natural beauty and the historical and cultural wealth of southern West Virginia as the makings of an attractive tourism destination in order to provide economic diversification and development for the area.

Three strategies guide the progress of the Hatfield-McCoy project toward these objectives:

  • Building and maintaining enthusiastic support for the project, first among project area citizens, community leaders and local government officials; then with Congress, the State Legislature, and state agencies; with recreational users throughout the nation; with other necessary project partners; and finally with the landowning corporations.
  • Designing and creating the structure within which the various components of the recreation area can come together—the partnerships that are essential to the completion of the tasks—the planning, design, construction and management of the trail system.
  • Promoting the trail system throughout the world so that the tourists will come to use the trails and the promises of the Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area will be fully realized.

Under the leadership of Mr. Moore, the Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area has become a reality:

  • Almost $2 million has been committed since 1991 for planning and development, and another $6 million has been committed for construction and start-up costs, mostly from government sources.
  • More than 25 corporate land interests signed a memorandum of understanding to work to help make Hatfield-McCoy happen. Nine landowning corporations are represented on the board of directors.
  • More than 100 partnership entities are working on the project, including travel/tourism and economic development interests, state and federal agency personnel, local government and community leaders, recreational interests, universities, business interests, and corporate landowners and leaseholders.
  • First 300 miles of trail opened in the year 2000. In 2000 the first 300 miles opened over both public and private land and today approximately 500 miles are available. As of March 2007, the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System totaled several hundred miles of off-road trails in five of its nine project counties. Each of its six trail systems is open 365 days of year to ATV’s, dirt bikes, select utility vehicles (UTVs), mountain bikes, horses, and hikers. Invitational events to testing the trails were held regularly beginning in fall 1999 and continuing through the public opening date. Throughout the year the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System schedule five significant ATV and dirt bike events which bring not only significant numbers of users but provide national visibility to the system.


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