FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — New River Gorge National Park Service’s Chief of Interpretation Eve West says an exciting new feature being included in the Canyon Rim Visitor Center’s series of renovations is the installation of all three of the park’s national site exhibits.
Following the announcement that the visitor center on the northern end of the park in Fayette County will be closing for those renovations starting Jan. 1, 2024, West said the new exhibits as part of the upgrade will include orientation to all three national sites, Gauley River National Recreation Area, Bluestone National Scenic River, and New River Gorge.
West said while they were able to make some necessary updates to the current exhibits after the park was officially re-designated as a national park in December of 2020, she said the exhibits only touch on the New River Gorge area of the park and they wanted them to be inclusive to all of the sites the park has to offer.
“The whole purpose of the exhibits really are to entice people to get outside and explore the park,” West told MetroNews. “We have so many different stories we tell here and the resources are so expansive that you can’t really spend a great deal of time on any one subject, but we try to touch a little bit on all of the subjects.”
West said the interactive, state-of-the-art exhibits will educate people specifically on the geology, history, plants and animals, and recreational opportunities that all areas of the park holds.
She said the new exhibits will not only be a way for visitors to learn about the park itself, but it will be a means to appreciate the park even more by providing information on how to protect the natural resources native to the area, and offer guidance on how people can help be good environmental stewards while visiting the park.
“We are charged with preserving and protecting the resource for future generations, and one of the ways we do that is through education,” West said. “We kind of look at that as being the long-term solution to achieving that objective.”
The new exhibits aren’t the only upgrades being made as part of the renovations at the visitors center however, but it also includes a new sales area, fresh carpeting, lighting, wall coverings, new seating for the auditorium, and new outside signage.
West said this is the first major upgrade to come to the park’s busiest visitor center since it opened on May 23, 1991. She said the project has been in the works now for three years and it’s nice to finally see it come to fruition.
“I think we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into coming up with ideas and the design, of course we worked with a contractor in developing the design.”
West said a reopening date is tentatively set for sometime in March, and they will most-likely hold an official re-dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony to showcase the improvements.
The Sandstone Visitor Center on the southern end of the park will remain open throughout the winter from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 7 days a week.
Visitors closer to the northern end can still stop by the headquarters in Glen Jean for information, which is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The Thurmond Depot will also be open on weekends throughout January and February.