GLEN JEAN — The New River Gorge National River recently solicited public input on a proposal to charge fees at the park’s new flagship campground, the Meadow Creek Campground, near Sandstone.
Most of the feedback from government representatives, stakeholders and the public indicated general support for charging fees in National Park Service campgrounds in order to provide facilities and services.
Because of this feedback, the NPS wants to gauge public sentiment for charging fees in three existing campgrounds in the New River Gorge National River: Army Camp Campground, Glade Creek Campground and Grandview Sandbar Campground, all located in the vicinity of Prince.
Amenities at these campgrounds are limited: all campsites have a picnic table and fire ring, and drive-in sites have a tent pad.
A volunteer camp host site is located at Grandview Sandbar Campground. Army Camp Campground provides 10 drive-in campsites, including two that are handicapped accessible, and six aerated vault toilet stalls.
Glade Creek Campground offers six walk-in and six drive-in campsites, including one that is handicapped accessible, and a five-stall aerated vault toilet.
Grandview Sandbar Campground has six walk-in campsites, 10 drive-in sites, including one that is handicapped-accessible, and two handicapped-only drive-in campsites, as well as two multi-stalled aerated vault toilets. More information on these campgrounds can be found at www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm.
The NPS proposes to charge $5 per night for use of each site, a rate that is based on comparisons to rates and amenities in other similar campgrounds in Southern West Virginia. By law, this rate must be comparable, without undercutting, rates at campgrounds in the local area.
Recognizing that these campsites have traditionally been available for fee-free public use, the park’s decision to move forward with this proposal will be based on the feedback received from the public during this open comment period. Free camping
will still be available at other primitive campgrounds and backcountry campsites in the park.
The reasoning behind the fee proposal is two-fold. First is the reality of declining budgets and increasing costs to maintain these facilities. Park staff, vehicles and supplies are decreasing with budget cuts, while gas costs to reach these remote campgrounds remain high and facilities continue to age, requiring maintenance and repairs. Fee revenues, under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, will be dedicated to managing the fee collection program and to facility maintenance and improvements at these and other park campgrounds. Fees would allow the NPS to continue to provide a satisfactory level of service to overnight visitors and would reduce the potential need to extend seasonal closures of campground facilities.
Secondly, the nature of free campsites along the river often invites some of the local criminal element into the park. The crime rate for every major category in West Virginia except for motor vehicle theft is up and rising. Park rangers have responded to numerous visitor complaints and incidents in these three campgrounds, including domestic disputes, disorderly conduct, and alcohol-related crime and noise complaints. Other comparable campgrounds in the National Park system had similar issues prior to institution of a nominal fee for camping.
After the fee was introduced, the people who were largely responsible for the criminal issues, presumably being unwilling to pay, were replaced by more family-oriented groups filling the campsites. The NPS anticipates that charging this $5 fee at the New River Gorge National River will produce similar results so that the park may offer the public a safer and more enjoyable visitor experience in and around the Army Camp, Glade Creek and Grandview Sandbar campgrounds.
For more information and to submit comments on the proposed fees, please go to www.nps.gov/neri and from the links on the left side of the page, select “Management,” then “Park Planning,” then “Civic Engagement for Proposed New Fees at Army Camp, Glade Creek and Grandview Sandbar Campgrounds,” then “Document List.”
Comments can be submitted online through this website, or may be submitted by mail to: NPS – New River Gorge National River; Attn: Comment on Proposed Camping Fees; PO Box 246; Glen Jean, WV 25846-0246.
Please submit comments online or by mail no later than Nov. 24.