National Park Service hosts first public comment hearing on proposed projects

Glen Jean, WV (WOAY) – On Thursday afternoon, the National Park Service (NPS) held a public meeting at the Bank of Glen Jean to accept comments on the proposed demolition of 35 structures within the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.    

 Twenty-one of these structures are historically significant. 

 “This is not a done deal. This is a listening session. This is a proposed project, so that’s the whole purpose of it. It is just for us to get an opportunity to listen to the public and to consider their comments in developing the draft,” states NPS Chief of Interpretation Eve West.

The park will review these comments and develop a draft environmental assessment, including proposed alternatives. 

NPS will then present the assessment to the public for a second comment period to help the park create a decision document. 

West says, “We really value the public’s input, and it’s obvious that there are a lot of people that care about this place. And that’s a good thing.”

In 2020, lawmakers signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law, the largest-ever investment in public lands. 

Part of the act includes deferred maintenance and repair, or maintenance and repair activity that was not performed when it should have been. 

West states, “This project was funded by the Great American Outdoors Act, and the objective of the funding for this project is to reduce deferred maintenance in the park so that we can actually put those funds toward more of the most significant structures, structures the park uses.”

West further explains, “It’s not just removing structures, it’s also enhancing structures, but there are also competing interests for each other, so we have to look at where the money is most valuable and needed if we’re going to get the biggest bang for the buck.”

In utilizing these funds, the park is facing tough decisions

When there are tough decisions, there are usually disagreements.

Lifelong Thurmond resident Melissa McCune says, “There has to be some other option other than destruction, either leasing or public-private partnership. There’s grant money available for restoration, especially of historic structures.”

This also isn’t the first time proposals and plans have been presented to property owners in the new river gorge, and the inconsistency in follow-through has left some frustrated. 

McCune further explains, “Back in 1978, when this became a national river, the park decided that they would voluntarily buy the people out of Thurmond who wanted to move.”

“The idea behind that and the product that they sold was this would be a living history town. It would tell the story of railroading in a small community in the New River Gorge,” says McCune.

 The first round of public comment will remain open until January 15th. 

If you missed the meeting, call 304-465-6523 or visit for details about the proposed projects and provide feedback.

Newswatch will update you on the progress, including when the second public comment meeting will be held. 





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