PIPESTEM, W.Va. — West Virginia is trying to take further advantage of one of its most picturesque state parks.
The ribbon was cut Thursday on the Pipestem Peaks zipline located at Pipestem Resort State Park in Summers County, part of an $11 million improvement plan for the resort near Athens.
The state parks department and state Division of Tourism are working together on a number of projects at Pipestem and other locations in an attempt to increase the average nights per stay.
“We have to do more to get people to stay longer in our parks,” state Division of Natural Resources Director Steve McDaniel said at Thursday’s ribbon cutting.
Those booking accommodations at West Virginia state parks spend two nights on average while the average in other states is as much as four nights per stay, McDaniel said.
Ace Adventure Resort Chief Financial Officer Paul Buechler, who worked with the state on the Pipestem Peaks project and will operate the zipline, predicted it will be a draw visitors because of its uniqueness.
“It’s called a canopy tour because it starts in the trees and stays in the trees,” Buechler said “A lot of ziplines start with platforms and towers and stuff like that. Ours is in trees the entire time.”
Pipestem Peaks, which will officially open Saturday, is 1.5 miles long and includes nine different ziplines. It crosses the Bluestone River Gorge three times and takes 2 to 3.5 hours to complete. It costs $99 a person.
“When it does cross the gorge you’re about 300 feet in the air and that creates spectacular views both upstream and downstream,” Buechler said.
The zipline ends at the bottom of the gorge near Mountain Creek Lodge. Pipestem’s tram will be used to transport zipline users back to the top.
ACE’s agreement with the state at Pipestem also includes the development of adventure lake, splash park for kids, tubing, rafting, rock climbing and rappelling instruction, kayaking and paddle board tours and guided mountain bike excursions
Buechler said some of them would be ready by Memorial Day.
“This is going to be a place to do almost anything that you want to do. From wild to wild it’s going to be really fun to be here during the summer,” Buechler predicted.
State Division of Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby said the partnership with Ace makes sense.says it “demonstrates just how committed our partners are to growing and developing West Virginia’s tourism industry,”
McDaniel and Justice administration Chief of Staff Mike Hall both hailed Gov. Jim Justice at Thursday’s ceremony for his committed to improve the state park system. Hall said during his 23 years in the legislature he heard several governors promise improvements to state parks but Gov. Justice has made it a financial priority for the state.
“There’s all kinds of things said about Gov. Justice but I’m going to tell you something; In my experience he was the first governor to put up and make it happen and you need to give him applause for that,” Hall said.
Zipline tours can be booked on line here. To celebrate the grand opening, customers can receive $15 off a zipline tour when they book online with the code ZIPLINE15.