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Park Designation Should Help W.Va.

“We’re deeply honored, thrilled, delighted and just plain happy that this day came,” said New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Superintendent Lizzie Watts this past Wednesday.

Can you tell she’s excited? All West Virginians should share her enthusiasm for the new, 7,021-acre park, for which new signage was dedicated last week. The change in designation as now a national park is an enormous boost for the state, and certainly the economy in surrounding Fayette County. Of course, we know what a treasure we have always had in our midst (and that it is one of many), but those from across the country and globe who might be looking for travel destinations such as national parks will now have a much easier time discovering it, too.

Already there has been an increase in those visiting the region. According to the West Virginia Department of Tourism, visitation to Fayette County increased by 14 percent in the first quarter, compared with pre-pandemic 2019 numbers.

“If I were to give you projections even further out through the year, you would be even more impressed, because we are seeing higher and higher numbers,” said Secretary of Tourism Chelsea Ruby. “Everyone here will tell you bookings are up, travel is up, everything is up. We think this is just the beginning.”

Let us hope so. There is so much potential here in the Mountain State, that given the right access to resources and right support from communities, we could build this kind of excitement in every corner. For now, though, congratulations to those who worked to make our new national park a reality.

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