GRAFTON, W.Va. — Warm sunshine beamed down as the first boats of a Sunday afternoon idled out to the buoys at the end of the no-wake zone and rose on plane for an afternoon of fun on the water. Tygart Dam was just around the bend to the right and to the left trailers came out of the water rolling up into a freshly paved parking areas.
Nearby, West Virginia State Parks Chief Sam England beamed with pride.
“We’ve spent money and we’re in the process spending even more,” England said as we stood on a patio extended beyond the restaurant at Tygart Lake Lodge.
The improvements at the lake are slowly being revealed. This summer the state has completed renovations to the boat launch area with extension of two launch ramps and the expansion and improvements of the parking area for two vehicles.
“We’ve put probably a million and a half dollars into the parking and launch ramps,” England explained. “We’re trying to get the parking available and get it fixed. As popular as this is for boating, we’re trying to get people in safely and get a secure place where they can park their boat and trailer.”
The improved launch ramp was just the first phase of several improvements and upgrades. Management oft the park restaurant, known as “The Lodge” , is now back in-house and opened July 1st. The patio where England stood provides a great view of the lake and marina. England said the next phase will be extensive upgrades to the lodge itself. The work there will begin as the improvements to the park’s cabin area winds down.
“We have courtesy docks at each cabin and we’re finishing up the trail down to those,” he said. “We’re also improving the cabins. We’re improving the cabins, installing new furniture, and we’re upgrading the bathroom.”
England said the cabins needed the upgrades since the expectations of guests have changed dramatically.
“They were built in the 1950’s and didn’t have air conditioning, We needed to make that improvement because people who travel today want that, compared for when they were built. We’ve added the air conditioning, satellite television, and we’re in the process of securing a purchase order to put WI-FI throughout the park.”
The park has long been a destination point for locals, but England said marketing by the state Division of Tourism is starting to pay off and they want the State Parks to be the experience visitors wanted when they made the decision to come to West Virginia.
“I was here last week on a visit and encountered a lot of folks asking questions and about half of them had some kind of broken English. It tells me a lot of those folks are from the D.C. area where English wasn’t their primary language. It tells me our efforts to reach out to those folks to come here and stay is working.”