The New River Gorge in southern West Virginia is set to become a national park, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) announced today.
To be designated the "New River Gorge National Park and Preserve," the present New River Gorge National River will become the 63rd national park in the U.S. as year-end funding legislation is passed by Congress Monday night.
Capito said the designation will be a game-changer for the state and local economy.
“This is going to be such a major investment in tourism in West Virginia,” Capito said Monday.
“Being a national park is 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" in 2019 while third-district Congresswoman Carol Miller introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House.
Capito said the renaming is projected to raise visitorship to the area by approximately 20 percent over an estimated 1.8 million annually tourists and will boost economic growth in an area that’s primed for it.
“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.
The proposal had faced opposition from some hunters and anglers; however, the legislation by creating a "preserve" designation protects the right of public hunting in some areas.
Capito's office said 65,165 acres within the 72,808-acre park will accommodate public hunting and fishing.
“There are some areas that were not previously open, and there are some that are going to be narrowed,” Capito said.
More than 301 acres of the lower gorge will be open for hunting and another 368 acres in the Grandview area will open for the sport for the first time.
Machin haled the worldwide renown that the designation should establish.
"This designation will increase the international recognition by highlighting West Virginia’s world-class beauty and resources," Manchin said.
"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."
Miller spoke of the value of the designation to West Virginians.
“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."
The National Park Service will acquire up to 100 acres for parking only; otherwise, the park will witness few visible changes.
There will be no admission fee, according to Capito's office.
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