FIRST ON FOUR: New details about national park’s plan to remove buildings in New River Gorge national park

The National Park Service has sent a statement about a major ongoing demolition and repair project in the New River Gorge National Park, revealing new details about the scope.

Earlier this week, Newswatch broke the story of the Park Service’s plans to remove historic but dilapidated buildings in the New River Gorge, and the statement obtained today gives broader context to the project.

The statement explains how the project will help them use resources efficiently and better represent the history of the New River Gorge National Park. It also details how the park service is following the legal process.

“This is part of a much larger project funded through the Great American Outdoors Act that will go towards improving some of the wastewater treatment facilities and other infrastructure in the park, stabilizing historic structures along Commercial Row at Thurmond, and removing others in the park that are in a state of disrepair,” Eve West, chief of interpretation and visitor services at the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, said.

The Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law in 2020 and is a larger investment in public lands.

The park service will also get the public’s input on the future of these areas. This is done through the Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) web platform.

You can access the link by clicking here.

It allows the public to comment on park projects easily and makes it easier for the park service to analyze and respond to comments. The law requires that the public has the opportunity to comment on projects involving historic buildings.

According to West, the park service is considering the historic nature of the buildings.

“Part of the project includes providing alternative ways to interpret and preserve the history of those structures that have been removed through outdoor exhibits and documentation,” West said.

However, the park can’t afford to repair and save every single structure. It needs to utilize its resources as efficiently as it can.

“Currently, the park has approximately $76 million in deferred maintenance and repair needs on its 176 buildings, four visitor centers, nine campgrounds, eight river accesses, 85 miles of hiking and biking trails, 25 miles of road, and a variety of natural and cultural resources,” West said. “Funding from the Great American Outdoors Act makes it possible to eliminate or reduce the maintenance of structures no longer needed or dilapidated beyond repair, thereby enabling a focus upon resources serving the greatest purpose and of most historic significance to the park.”

Newswatch will continue to track this developing story.
Multiple members of the Newswatch team contributed to this story.


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