Ride Report Black Mountain Recreation
THE NUMBER ONE RIDING DESTINATION
Situated in the heart of the Appalachian Mountain range, Evarts Kentucky is the home of the Black Mountain Recreation Park. Located in Harlan County, Evarts is a small town with big plans. In 2004 Preston McClain and a few other local residents organized a charity ride for a cancer patient. The ride was a success and the number of people who participated, planted the idea that if the trails the locals had been riding for years were opened up to the public, people might just come to Evarts to ride. And come the did.
The park was officially opened in 2005 and estimates of twenty to twenty four thousand riders converged on Evarts and the park that first year. How could this area promote and develope a riding area in one year? I asked the same question and from the answers I got, it was the people of Evarts. These people love their community and will put fourth whatever effort is needed to restore economic stability to the place they call home.
Generations the people living in Evarts and the surrounding areas worked in the coal mines. The wages were reasonably good and the area prospered. With the closing of the deep mines and the shift to strip mines, many people lost their jobs and the local economy plummeted. These same people who for years had gone into the mines together, working in a difficult environment and dangerous conditions, were now pulling together once more to save their community. Mayor Burl Fee smiled when he said, “The park generated nearly four million dollars of income to Harlan County last year, our economy has improved one hundred percent”.
Black Mountain Recreation Park:
What makes this area so special? Lets start with the trail system. With over one hundred and fifty miles of trails in the park and another two hundred miles on private land, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The trails range from old coal mining roads which are easy to navigate, to extreme trails that should only be attempted by experienced riders, as well as many moderately difficult trails to test your skills.
So does the trail system make this park number one? In a word NO. But add the spectacular scenery of the Appalachian Mountains and your getting close. On a recent trip to Evarts my wife, Bernice and I, spent two days with the Harlan County Ridge Runners, the local ATV Club that operates the park and trail system. This was our third trip to the park and we decided to schedule a guided ride outside the park property. This property has been opened up by the land owners, some of which are mining companies, to be used by the Harlan County Ridge Runners for guided rides. We spent two days being guided through The scenic mountains in total awe of the breath taking sites. Stopping on mountain tops, We could see for miles and marvel at the natural beauty. After logging over one hundred and sixty miles on the mountain trails, we reluctantly headed back to our rental house in Evarts knowing our journey had come to an end.
Ok, there are great trails in other areas with beautiful scenery, how can I say the Black Mountain Recreation Park is the number one riding destination? That’s easy, it’s the people. The Harlan County Ridge Runners and the people of Evarts Kentucky are some of the kindest, most caring I’ve ever come in contact with. After ending our second day of riding, we rode our ATV’s a block up the street to one of the two RV campgrounds where riders and locals were gathering for a campfire and feast. Some of the residents of Evarts had prepared fried chicken and all the “fixins” to share with the visitors who had descended on the park. Sitting around the fire and listening to the stories made me realize, I was in a special place. We shared our riding experience with other visitors who had also joined the group, and often laughed at ourselves as we related our encounters with some large mud puddles.
Combine Evarts the town, with one of the best trail systems anywhere, and add the people and their down home hospitality, you must agree this is at least one of the best riding areas in the country. Now consider this, it’s all free! No trail passes to purchase, no guide fees, no fees for the RV camping areas, quite simply, it’s FREE. How can they provide such a awesome riding adventure and not charge? The never ending stream of ATV enthusiast are buying food at the local stores, eating in the cafe’s and restaurants and in general, providing a much needed boost to the economy. In the past year new business have sprung up and over one hundred new jobs generated
One more thing I should add. After you get set up at your camp site, rental home or cabin, you need not start your vehicle again until your ready to leave. You can climb on your ATV and explore the town, shop for groceries, or visit one of the local eating establishments. The only requirements are, wear a helmet and obey the laws. Put all the ingredients together, and in my humble opinion, this is ATV Heaven.
To plan a trip to the Black Mountain Park, you can log on to www.kyoutdoors.com and click on the Ridge Runners forum, or obtain lodging information. Park maps are also available.
Our thanks to Preston McClain, Ken Baird and all the other Ridge Runners, as well as Mayor Burl Fee, for providing us with fond memories and a fantastic riding experience.