The most highly visited area in the national park system in southern West Virginia, the boardwalk at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, near Fayetteville, West Virginia, will close in stages for repair beginning June 14.
More than 320,000 visitors walk the boardwalk and stair system each year to access views of the gorge near the New River Gorge Bridge, according to Julena Campbell, public affairs officer for the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
The project will replace and repair more than 20,000 square feet of decking and more than 2,000 linear feet of railing as well as 178 stairs and many support posts and beams, Campbell said.
"There's never a good time to do this, but it must be done," she said.
Installed in the early 1990s, the boardwalk and stair system has since received only minor repairs.
The entire project is expected to take several months, and closures are necessary to ensure visitor safety and allow construction to progress as quickly as possible.
The project will proceed through two phases, with work beginning at the bottom of the boardwalk and moving upslope later, Campbell said.
Beginning June 14, everything below the upper viewing platform will be closed to the public while crews demolish and replace the stairs, landings, and the lower viewing platforms. This phase is estimated to last several months.
The boardwalk that leads to the upper viewing platform will remain open during the construction project, but visitors should expect to see staged equipment and crews working in the area and are asked to stay alert and keep out of work areas.
As the first phase nears completion, the closure will be moved to the top of the boardwalk.
For a few weeks in September, the entire boardwalk system, including all viewing platforms, will be closed so that crews can demolish and replace the upper portion of the boardwalk and the upper viewing platform. This closure will remain in place until the project is completed in late September.
No work is scheduled to occur on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays, so every effort will be made to open the boardwalk system on those days, but this may vary as the project progresses, depending on safety considerations, she said.
During the project, visitor center guests will be able to view the New River Gorge Bridge and the rim of the gorge from the overlook located near the pet-walk area. This area features great views of the bridge and is a short walk from the parking lot.
Additionally, large windows inside the visitor center, and a deck outside, allow for scenic views into the gorge and to the river below, she said.