Lawmaker says Congress key to halting national park demolitions

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Lawmaker says Congress key to halting national park demolitions
The Prince Bros. Store is now one of several landmarks slated for demolition by the National Park Service. (Photo: Sibray)

OAK HILL, W.Va. — West Virginians may need to turn to Congress to rescue historic landmarks that the National Park Service has slated for demolition in America's newest national park, an alarmed state lawmaker says.

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Republican state delegate says it may be up to the state's representatives in Congress to turn the tide on the demolitions, which will level more than 35 structures in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in southern West Virginia.

West Virginia Delegate David Elliott Pritt represents the state's 50th district.

Pritt called the demolition of the structures designated as having value to the nation as "unconscionable" and is asking West Virginians to reach out to the state's four U.S. senators and members of Congress to provide a solution.

"We were led to believe that this new national park designation for the New River Gorge area would bring tourism dollars and economic development to our area and would work to preserve the dwindling number of historic structures we have left — not fast-track the destruction and demolition of our culture and history," Pritt said of the proposal by the park service.

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"Yes, some of these structures need to come down, but many do not. Some have even undergone preservation and renovation work in recent years."

A preserved house in Thurmond is now slated for demolition.

Earlier this week, the park service announced plans to demolish buildings at Thurmond and Prince to save money. The service will hold a public meeting at the former Thurmond National Bank at its headquarters in Glen Jean to gather public input about the expenditure.

The proposal is part of a larger project within the park being bankrolled by the to "rehabilitate historic structures, invest in park infrastructure, address deferred maintenance needs, and reduce unnecessary operational costs and maintenance burdens."

The meeting is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2024, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The park service will then provide information regarding its proposal to demolish 35 deteriorating and excess structures. More than 20 are designated as nationally historic and are either listed or eligible for listing in the .

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Pritt says money to support that park in general has not been forthcoming since it was established in 2020, and while the increase in tourism has been dramatic, funding to support the growth has not been forthcoming.

"As budget cuts were cited as the reason for these planned demolitions, I am calling on our national delegation — Senators Manchin and Capito, Congresswoman Miller, and Congressman Mooney — to please step in and put a stop to this process until more federal funds can be allocated to the so that many of these historic structures can be saved."

An instructor in West Virginia History, Pritt says he is acutely aware of the need for West Virginians to exercise control of their government.

"Those of us who grew up here and have deep personal ties to our local history must start speaking out," he said. "What kind of West Virginia history teacher would I be, and what kind of delegate would I be if I did not speak out and advocate for preserving our county’s history, heritage, and culture?"

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Pritt advises concerned West Virginians to reach out to members of Congress and attend the January 11 meeting.

Contacts: West Virginia Congressional Delegation


U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
900 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 629
Charleston, WV 25302
Phone: 304-342-5855


U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
500 Virginia Street East, Suite 950
Charleston, WV 25301
Phone: 304-347-5372


Congresswoman Carol Miller
3049 Robert C. Byrd Drive, Suite 330

Beckley, WV 25801
Phone: 304-250-6177

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Congressman Alex Mooney
503 Burroughs Street, Suite 101
Morgantown, WV 26505
Phone: 304-413-1995


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