Bill to privatize W.Va. state parks could be irreversible

Bill to privatize W.Va. state parks could be irreversible
Glade Creek drops through a snowy hollow below at Babcock State Park. (Photo courtesy Rick Burgess)

Could West Virginia residents lose control of their state parks? Some state officials are warning voters about what could be a threat to the park system, which has been nationally recognized for its beauty and accessibility.


According to an article published in the Wyoming County Report and shared with permission here, every few years, the West Virginia Legislature considers laws designed to privatize state parks.

This year, that attempt may be veiled in Senate Bill 485—a complex bill that would "remove legislative oversight of the park system, extend private lease agreements from 25 to 50 years, and remove restrictions on the types of facilities that can be built on park lands."

"The bill means a private contractor could come in and build a casino, a racetrack, an amusement park, or anything else on state park property,” explained Walt Shupe, a former superintendent of Holly River, Watoga, and Pipestem Resort state parks.


Voting against handing over state parks to private investors, Senator David “Bugs” Stover, R-Wyoming, says he's gravely concerned with the bill, especially after the state has invested millions in park upgrades.

“The state just spent $150 million updating and renovating state parks. Visitors to state parks are probably the most they’ve ever been. State parks are probably making more money than they ever have,” Stover said.

Read the full story on park expansion at the Wyoming County Report here:

Who to contact

Are you interested in voicing your opinion on the matter? Contact the following members of the West Virginia Legislature.


President of the Senate Craig Blair (304) 357-7801
President Pro Tempore: Donna J. Boley (304) 684-3266
Majority Leader: Tom Takubo (304) 357-7990
Majority Whip: Ryan Weld (304) 670-6605
Minority Leader: Stephen Baldwin (304) 647-4400
Minority Whip: Mike Woelfel (304) 522-6249

Senator Eric Tarr  (304) 202-4276
Senator Charles Trump (304) 258-5133
Senator Bill Hamilton  (304) 472-1966
Senator David Stover (304) 357-7807

Delegate Roger Hanshaw (304) 587-9947
Delegate Amy Summers (304) 842-7958
Delegate Brandon Steele (304) 575-3508
Delegate Geoff Foster  (304) 561-4229
Delegate Mark Dean (304) 601-3425

Retired administrator warns against state park privatization

Cabins in state-managed parks in West Virginia are welcoming record in-state visitors. (Photo: W.Va. Dept. of Commerce)

The West Virginia Legislature this week is considering the privatization of the state's park system. Mark Wylie, retired parks district administrator and long-time superintendent at Babcock and Watoga state parks is warning West Virginians that the bills have dire implications.


"The recent legislative introduction of Senate Bill 485 and its companion, House Bill 4408, means that the West Virginia State Park System is once again the target of wholesale privatization. This has occurred in the past and, most notably, in 1994 under the administration of Governor Caperton." .

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