FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — The New River Gorge National River is still open, but the National Park Service is taking a number of steps to make the park as uninviting as possible for social gatherings for the time being as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The park’s campgrounds and bathroom facilities were closed Tuesday.
NPS Superintendent Lizzie Watts noted closing the bathrooms protects park employees from risking a spread of infection by cleaning the facilities every day. She added, shutting off camping is a way to discourage visitors from out of the area.
Watts admitted, this is the opposite of how she and her staff normally operate.
“It’s very counter intuitive for us. These parks belong to the public and it’s really their legacy, but right now the message needs to be social distancing, safety for yourself, your family, your fellow West Virginians, and your fellow Americans has to be first,” she said.
The Park Service’s actions came a day after Gov. Jim Justice ordered the shutdown of all state park campgrounds amid growing report of out of state visitors, many from Covid 19 hot spots like New York, were coming to West Virginia to ride out the virus.
Although park service facilities are closed, Watts admitted technically their trails are still open for hiking, but noted if there are a lot of cars in the parking lot, you should move on and find another more remote and less used trail.
“There are some trails in the boonies so to speak, so if you really want to take a walk, that’s what we would recommend. But we are really trying to honor the Stay at Home (order), stay safe, and practice social distancing,” Watts said.
Watts added some trails don’t offer enough space to allow for passing others with the recommended six foot distance to help curb the spread of the virus. She recommends staying away and abiding by the CDC recommendations and the executive orders of Governor Jim Justice.