WASHINGTON, D.C. — The New River Gorge in Fayette and Raleigh counties will become the 63rd National Park in year-end funding legislation that was passed by Congress Monday night.
The redesignation language which creates the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito said.
“This, I think, is going to be such a major investment in tourism in West Virginia,” Capito said Monday. “Being a national park is so much of a gold standard of approval and excellence.”
Capito and fellow U.S. Senator Joe Manchin introduced the New River Gorge Park and Preserve Designation Act last year. Third District Congresswoman Carol Miller introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House. Discussion about the redesignation began in 2018.
Capito said the renaming is projected to raise visitorship to the area by approximately 20% and will boost economic growth in an area that’s ready for growth.
“I think what it’s going to mean is a lot of people come to this country and a lot of people in this country plan their summers traveling around visiting national parks,” Capito said.
Dave Arnold, co-founder of Adventures on the Gorge reacted to the news directly to MetroNews. He said officials are excited.
“We are now in the best of the best category. It’s very rare for a national park to be named. There’s only 62 in the United States and the parks have been around for over 100 years,” Arnold said.
He said they expect some type of growth, whether large or small but there is no doubt there will be a lasting impact.
“They are very rare,” Arnold said of the designation. “There is no other state getting a national park right now. So every state in the union, people in the outdoor business, are going to turn their head and take a look.”
The proposal has faced some opposition from hunters and fishermen. Capito, Manchin and Miller held several town hall meetings.
The language that moved through Congress creates a 65,165-acre preserve where hunting and fishing will be allowed and a 7,021-acre park. It keeps 301 acres of the Lower Gorge open for hunting and opens up 368 acres in Grandview for the first time.
“There are some areas that were not previously open and there are some that are going to be narrowed,” Capito said.
Capito said the National Park Service will acquire up to 100 acres for parking only. She said besides that there won’t be a lot of physical changes. Also there will be no admission charge like there is at some national parks.
Manchin issued the following statement Monday afternoon:
“The New River Gorge is truly one of West Virginia’s most treasured playgrounds and largest tourist attractions because of its whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing, outdoor sports and natural beauty. This designation will increase the international recognition by highlighting West Virginia’s world-class beauty and resources. Over the last two years we have met with outdoorsmen, businesses and local leaders and other interested groups to ensure this designation will promote the beauty and rich history of the New River Gorge, while ensuring that the longstanding traditions of hunting and fishing are protected for generations to come,” Manchin said.
Miller called the redesignation exciting news.
“The New River Gorge is home to all West Virginia has to offer – our beauty, small businesses, and adventurous tourism opportunities. This legislation will preserve and protect the New River Gorge for generations to come and make our state an even better place to live, work, and raise a family,” Miller said.