Visitors to W.Va. forest and six parks to be charged entrance fees

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Gristmill at Babcock State Park, Clifftop, WV, Fayette County, New River Gorge Region
Gristmill at Babcock State Park

Visitors to six West Virginia state parks and a state forest will be charged entrance fees this year, according to Stephen McDaniel, director of the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources.

The new fees are part of a pilot project designed to support the state parks system’s maintenance costs, which McDaniel said could generate an additional $1 million annually for maintenance and upkeep.

“This is a pilot project that likely will evolve over time,” McDaniel said.

“Other states incorporate parks passes to bolster maintenance costs. We believe West Virginia can use the same approach as we address maintenance and upkeep in the 21st century of special places we return to visit decade after decade.”

A $2-per-person entrance fee will be charged at Coopers Rock State Forest and at Babcock, Blackwater, Cacapon, Little Beaver, Pipestem and Valley Falls state parks.

Two types of passes will be available, McDaniel said. An annual pass providing unlimited entrance to the parks may be purchased for $12 per vehicle, and a daily pass may be purchased for $2 per vehicle for a single day use. Exemptions for overnight guests and school groups that schedule visits at least a week in advance will be available.

The annual passes are 3-inch-by-3-inch windshield stickers that display support for West Virginia’s park system, and all passengers in a vehicle displaying a pass will be covered. The annual passes may be purchased at all state parks and forest gift shops, including those that do not require a pass. Daily passes may be purchased at pay stations at the park entrance. Money collected at any park will be used for maintenance and upkeep at that specific park, he said.

This may be the first year in West Virginia history that a fee has been charged for admission to parks, which were established to provide recreational opportunities for West Virginia residents.

The state park system was founded in 1925 with the establishment of the State Forest, Park, and Conservation Commission, according to the West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia.