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Motorsports Day at the capital puts economic impact of outdoor recreation on display

West Virginia Press Association Staff Report

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The backroads of Appalachia all led to Charleston on Friday, as motorsports enthusiasts from across the country descended upon the State Capitol for West Virginia Motorsports day. High performance vehicles of all shapes and sizes lined the building, while participants and lawmakers discussed the tremendous financial benefit that the motorsports industry presents to the Mountain State. 

While the spectacle began in earnest Friday morning, Thursday afternoon saw a fruitful conversation happen amongst members of the House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism, as Backroads of Appalachia’s Operations Director Jedediah Smith provided an overview of the organization’s West Virginia operations.

“Our focus is on economic development through motorsports,” Smith told committee members. “We host events and help people with events that bring people here to the State of West Virginia.”

Based in Lynch, Kentucky, Backroads of Appalachia operates GPS-enabled trail routes in their home state, as well as Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. The organization uses motorsports-tourism to drive job training and economic enhancement throughout the more impoverished areas of the Appalachian region. 

“I wanted to share with you an event that we just hosted a few weeks ago,” Smith said. “It was called ‘24 hours in Appalachia: Run for the Hills.’ This was essentially a backroad/dirt road/gravel road run over a 24-hour period, and we covered 585 miles.”

According to Smith, 176 people participated in the event, with 67 participant-vehicles. Additionally, the event utilized 10 recovery vehicles, and saw the total purchase of a conservatively-estimated 5,000 gallons of fuel. 

“We started at Seneca Rocks, and we finished in Point Pleasant at the Mothman statue,” Smith said. “It’s about a four hour trip, and we made it last 24 hours. We covered 10 counties, one national forest, and two state parks.”

Smith explained that Backroads of Appalachia partnered with numerous private businesses and state and county agencies along the route to make the run a success, adding that public safety was a top priority.

“The most important part, it was a fundraiser,” Smith said. “We worked with the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. They work all across the state. We also worked closely with Tread Lightly – a company that focuses on responsible motorized recreation, on and off road.”

“We also work with The Gambler 500,” Smith added. “What they do is take vehicles that are worth about $500, and they put them together and make them road legal. And we take them and pick up trash over a three or four day period.”

Smith said that several Gambler 500 vehicles were used in the “24 hours in Appalachia” fundraiser, including a modified Dodge Neon with ATV tires. 

“We had 23 states represented,” Smith said. “More than 60% (of participants) were from out of state. The farthest traveled was Florida. We will be doing another one of these in July. We’ll be starting in Hinton, and making a big loop back to Hinton, and that’s to raise funds for two nonprofits that are based in southern West Virginia.”

The average fuel expenditure, Smith said, was approximately $100 to $150 per day, while the food and shopping expenditures both ranged between $20 and $50 per day. More than 250 hotel rooms were also utilized, at an average cost of between $100 and $200 per night. 

“The average total was about $250 to $350 a day that they (participants) spent,” Smith said. “And again, this is just a small event that we ran with 67 vehicles.”

“The total money raised for the Children’s Home Society was $14,000,” Smith added. “Total economic impact was around $500,000 with everyone coming and spending their money, and then that money being recirculated among the communities.”

Smith noted that future scheduled events in 2024 include “Topless on the Hellbender” in May, “Bigfoot 4WD Adventure and Show” in June, “Miners and Logger Delight” in July, and “Wheeling For Hope + 4Fest” in September. For more information about Backroads of Appalachia, visit