Diversifying Rural Economies with Natural Resources: The Difference between Local and Regional OHV Trail Destinations

How to cite this study

 Hughes, M.D., Beeco, J.A., Hallo, J.C. and Norman, W.C. 2014. Diversifying rural economies with natural resources: The difference between local and regional OHV trail destinations. Journal of Rural and Community Development 9(2): 149-167.


This article focuses on the desirable and undesirable characteristics of off-highway-vehicle (OHV) trails from users’ perspectives as well as trail system characteristics that best suit local or regional OHV destinations. The authors found that the main concern of trail users in the local OHV trail system is trail mileage; their results suggest a minimum of 25 miles to be effective in attracting users. Local trail users are also more willing to accept trail user fees. A minimum of 100 miles is needed to attract regional or national trail users.


This research is relevant to community leaders interested in building an OHV trail system to attract OHV tourism and diversify their economy. Because the data was collected during Trailfest, the responses may reflect the differences between an “event” and “nonevent” rather than differences between local users and regional/national users. The authors acknowledge that Trailfest may attract people with specific preferences for that event and may not be representative of typical regional/national trail OHV trail users. However, the authors claim that their sample from the Trailfest event is geographically diverse.


This study is located in West Virginia and South Carolina.

Trail Type

The Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in West Virginia has more than 6,000 miles of OHV trails with an additional 2,000 planned to be built. Three other trails were located in Sumter and Frances Marion national forests in South Carolina, each with fewer than 50 miles of OHV trail.


Since off-highway-vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts are a fast-growing, high-spending U.S. recreational group, the authors claim that if rural communities have the resources, creating OHV trails could offer a significant potential economic benefit from tourism. The study was published by the Rural Development Institute at Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada.


  • The authors emphasize that regional/national vs local OHV users should not be considered one group due to their differences in preferences for trails. 
  • For local trail users, the cost and distance from home were the most important aspects of the trail.
  • For the regional/national riders, accommodations with easy access to trails and a welcoming culture of ATV users were most important. These riders also tended to be older than local trail users. 
  • For local trail users, the average trip was 7.98 hours whereas for regional/national riders the trip averaged 78.14 hours. 
  • Local trail users on average spent $76 per trip while regional/national spent $774. 
  • Local users reported a willingness to pay $16.60 per person per day while regional/national reported $26.20.
  • Users were asked to rate the importance of a trail system having at least 25, 50, or 100 miles in separate Likert-type questions on a 9-point scale. For local trail users, the highest average importance rating was having at least 25 miles (7.3), then 50 miles (6.6), and 100 miles (6.3). For regional/national users the highest average importance rating was having at least 100 miles (7.2), then 50 miles (7.0), and 25 miles (6.7).  This means that local trail users reported that having at least 25 miles to ride was more important than having at least 50- or 100-mile trails, whereas regional/national reported that at least 100 miles were more important than 25- or 50-mile trails. 
  • Local users found it more important than regional/national trail users that OHV trails be used by only OHV users (not hikers and mountain bikers). 


The data was collected from several sites.The first site was in the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system in West Virginia during Trailfest, a popular OHV event that, due to its size, represented the regional/national trail system. The rest of the sites were located in Sumter and Frances Marion national forests in South Carolina, which are smaller and considered local trails. The authors used a total of 301 on-site surveys, collecting 161 from local trail systems and 140 from regional/national trail systems. The authors used both qualitative and quantitative analyses to assess the differences between visitors’ perspectives in local trail systems and regional/national trail systems. They analyzed qualitative results from the survey by coding responses to derive common themes and compared statistical differences between users in survey questions regarding the quantitative responses.

Added to library on November 7, 2023