Climbers and hikers are welcome to begin exploring a 300-acre park under construction near the New River Gorge that includes more than two miles of cliff for climbing and bouldering.
Needleseye Boulder Park, at Oak Hill, West Virginia, is now welcoming adventurers, though its trails and other facilities are not yet in place, says city manager and park proponent Bill Hannabass.
The gorge region is already one of the chief climbing destinations in the eastern U.S. and welcomes more than a hundred thousand climbers annually.
Though an Oak Hill native himself, Hannabass said he and others had previously overlooked the scenic and recreational value of the park and its Needle's Eye rock formation.
The cliffs had been “right under our noses, but nobody had realized the extent of this two-mile-long, beautiful cliff line with large boulders and ample woods, plant life, and animal life," Hannabass said.
Oak Hill engaged the West Virginia Land Trust to purchase the property, which is now being conveyed to the city to be preserved and protected, he said.
The purchase was funded by the city and land trust and the state's Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund, established to “invest in the conservation of unique and important wildlife habitat, natural areas, forest lands, farmland, and lands for hunting, fishing and recreation.”
Hannabass said rock climbers of varying levels of proficiency will find ample challenges among the park's tunnels, boulders, and sandstone cliffs, which rise as much as 80 feet above the forest floor.
Continued development in the park will include the installation of signage and the development of parking areas, pavilions, playgrounds and two park entrances.
Hannabass says he hopes to establish an annual event in recognition of park and says he thinks its accessibility and proximity to Oak Hill will help attract guests.
Although relatively close to civilization, outdoor enthusiasts will still be able to enjoy isolated hikes on the large parcel of land, he said.