FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve celebrates its one-year anniversary for its re-designation of becoming a national park.
A bill was originally created in 1978 and officially signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020.
Now, one year later, the newest national park has been subject to many positive changes, including an increase in visitation by about 30% and receiving a lot more attention on a global scale.
“We’re getting a different type of visitor. Other than people just stopping by on their way to other park areas like Shenandoah or the Smokies, we are getting people coming here to see the New River Gorge now as their primary destination point,” says Park Ranger Eve West, Chief of Interpretation for the New River Gorge National Park.
While Park Ranger West believes some of the visitor increase has come from COVID-19 precautions attracting people to the great outdoors, she also thinks people are also just starting to gain more of an appreciation for being outside. But, whether visitor numbers will keep going up for 2022 remains to be seen.
“It will be interesting to see what happens, you know, it’s really hard to say, things may level off some, I don’t envision they’ll go up 30 more percent,” she says.
More visitors or not, the National Park Service has a lot of new opportunities in store for the 63rd national park, including the reopening of several trails that have been undergoing maintenance.
Many area locals have nothing but high hopes for the park going into the future.
“We’re kind of seeing more press around the park, and people coming here and seeing what a beautiful, awesome place it is,” Tabitha Stover, Executive Director of the Fayetteville Visitor Center, says. “So, it’s just a really exciting time to be a town right next to the national park.”
Along with new opportunities, Stover says events that were canceled in the park last year are expected to make a return in 2022.