Story at a glance:

  • Some locals are not happy with the New River Gorge becoming a national park.
  • Locals say the new national park was already overcrowded.
  • The designation will increase visitors even more.

There is a new national park in West Virginia, and while some are excited about the new attraction, some locals think it is a bad idea.

The national park at New River Gorge has cliffs to climb, rivers to raft, hillsides to trail and scenic vistas for bikers and hikers. But locals who visited before it became a national park say it worries them, The Guardian reported.


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The park does not have the facilities or resources to keep up with the demand of visitors, and when it comes to funding, the park is not financially viable to fix the problems associated with crowds, critics say.

“There’s been so little thought put into this, it’s just kind of bizarre,” Gene Kistler, co-owner of the outfitter Water Stone Outdoors in Fayetteville, W.Va., said.

“The national park system of the United States of America is the gold standard in the world of conservation and stewardship,” he said. “I don’t want this to be the place where the brand is diminished.”

Kistler, who has been visiting the park since the 1980s, said the park’s capacity is at its limit, with many of its features like rock climbing and hiking being so overcrowded that it spills out onto the main roads.

In 2019, the New River Gorge and other nearby parks had 1.4 million visitors, and while the park has seen a decline in visitors due to the pandemic, its new national park designation will likely increase its visitor numbers up to 20 percent.

“Our website hits increased 90% during the first quarter after the redesignation,” said Eve West, a public information officer with the park.

“Eighty percent of them are from out of state. Half are what I call ‘national parkers’,” Melissa McCune, a council member for Thurmond, a town in the heart of the gorge, said. 

“There were people yesterday, six of them from Wisconsin, walking down Main Street in the rain, because it’s the newest national park and they want to see it,” she continued.


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Published on May 12, 2021