New River Gorge on track to become national park

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – As many people wait for president trump to make a move on the covid-19 relief package, you may not realize the change that could come to the New River Gorge if the bill is signed.

This week, the relief package paired with the omnibus bill on the President’s desk has the potential to change the national river to a national park and preserve.

“It’s taking about 90 percent of the park and making it a national preserve,” said Eve West, chief of interpretation for NPS. “Hunting, which has been a traditional use of the park, will continue with that 90 percent of the national preserve part of the New River Gorge. The other 10 percent, roughly about 7,000 acres, will be considered national park.”

The change has been in the works for a while now, with many locals showing immense support for the change. A new name means new exposure, and more exposure could lead to more business.

“This, I think, is going to be such a major investment in tourism in West Virginia,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. “Being a national park is a gold stamp of approval and excellence. We’re going to be able to share the beauty and the magnificence of our New River Gorge with people from all over the country.”

Both Senator Capito and Senator Manchin support the change and held several meetings with locals. While many support the change, some were still on the fence.

“This is our land, you see,” said hunter Larry Case. “That’s a big part of this. All of this public land, whether it be national forests or this park service administered land behind me, it belongs to us. It doesn’t belong to the politicians. This is national public land for us to hunt and fish as we please, and it’s been that way since 1978, and we don’t see any reason to change.”

West says not to worry: not much will change at the park and there will still be plenty of space to hunt.

“Again, 90 percent of the park will be designated as a national preserve, so hunting will still be allowed in those areas,” said West. “The other thing that the new legislation will do if it’s passed or if it’s signed is it allows the park to actually purchase land outside the present park boundary from willing sellers to add to the national preserve section to actually expand hunting opportunities throughout the park as well.”

That bill has not yet been signed, so stay with WOAY for any updates.

Kassie Simmons
Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.