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Lizzie Watts, superintendent of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, stands in front of the new park sign at the park’s administrative headquarters in Glen Jean.

GLEN JEAN — Congress has redesignated New River Gorge National River as New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. This new name highlights the park’s spectacular features and other national park qualities as well as its traditional recreational opportunities. The new law also allows for the expansion of this natural and recreational treasure.

“I am thrilled that this designation will raise awareness of the great natural resources in my home state and the many opportunities available for outdoor recreation and exploration,” said Margaret Everson, Counselor to the Secretary, exercising the delegated authority of the National Park Service Director.

“My love of conservation and the outdoors stems from lifelong experiences hiking, fishing, hunting and camping in West Virginia. Today’s announcement will inspire more people to discover New River Gorge and enjoy the benefits of time spent in nature.”

Legislation to redesignate this unit of the National Park System was spearheaded by U.S. Senator Joseph Manchin (D-WV), U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and U.S. Representative Carol Miller (R-WV) and included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal 2021, enacted in December. The name change was supported by the State of West Virginia Governor’s office, county and municipal governments, the tourism industry and local communities.

“The New River Gorge is one of West Virginia’s most cherished playgrounds. The whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing, outdoor sports and natural beauty make it one of our most robust tourist attractions. This new designation will highlight West Virginia’s unparalleled beauty and resources, thereby increasing the international recognition. Over the last two years we have met with outdoorsmen, businesses and local leaders and other interested groups to ensure this designation will promote the beauty and rich history of the New River Gorge, while ensuring that the longstanding traditions of hunting and fishing are protected for generations to come,” Manchin said.

“The New River Gorge is such an important part of West Virginia and a real source of pride in our state. I am thrilled my legislation redesignating the National River as a National Park and Preserve was included in the legislative package that became law at the end of last year. Redesignation of the National River to a National Park and Preserve will shine a brighter light on West Virginia and all that it has to offer, and provide another catalyst for our tourism industry and local businesses,” Capito said.

“I’m grateful to all of the West Virginians — sportsmen, business owners, and constituents — for their feedback and involvement during this entire process. Throughout all of these discussions, it has become clear that this redesignation would bring enormous benefits to the region and those who call it home. As West Virginians, we all know that the New River Gorge is perhaps the best-known landmark in West Virginia because of its breathtaking natural beauty and elements of unique Appalachian history and culture. This designation will allow more people to share in the wild and wonderful adventure West Virginians take so much pride in, and I know it will be treasured and enjoyed for generations to come.”

“I am honored to help redesignate the New River Gorge as a National Park and Preserve,” Miller said.

“The New River Gorge is home to all West Virginia has to offer — our beauty, small businesses, and tourism opportunities. This redesignation is a crucial step in reinvigorating our economy. It will preserve and protect the New River Gorge for generations to come and make our state an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.”

A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. The national park and preserve includes more than 70,000 acres of land along the river which showcase the cultural and natural history of the area.

“We feel fortunate to play a role in preserving for future generations some of the most significant natural and cultural resources in our country,” said Lizzie Watts, superintendent of the park. “We appreciate all that the community has done in support of these efforts.”

The new law also expands the abundance of available recreational opportunities. Approximately 90 percent of the land is in the national preserve which permits hunting, a traditional use of the area, including 368 acres in the formerly off-limits Grandview area. The law also allows for the possibility of purchasing an additional 3,700 acres of land to add to the preserve in the future.

The 53-mile stretch of the New River between the Bluestone and Hawks Nest dams became a unit of the National Park System in November 1978. The park is administered together with the Gauley River National Recreation Area and Bluestone National Scenic River which were both established in 1988. The combined sites span five counties in southern West Virginia: Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, Summers and Mercer, and attract more than 1 million visitors annually. In 2019, park visitors spent more than $60 million in nearby communities, which supported 846 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to local economies of $70 million.

— National Park Service

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