Will a New National Park Provide Pandemic Relief?
A new national park will be included with pandemic-related aid in the second federal stimulus relief package. The New River Gorge in southern West Virginia will go from being a National River to a National Park and Preserve, making it the country’s 63rd national park and 20th preserve.
The $900 billion bill incorporates a new national park designation, announced by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). Capito, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), and U.S. Representative Carol Miller (R-WV) introduced the proposal in 2019, contending that the designation could boost tourism. Outdoor recreation is a $9 billion industry in the state, and redesignation to national park status could increase the number of visits by 21 percent.
The area was designated a national river in 1978. The New River Gorge National Park and Preserver Designation Act is a part of the Fiscal Year 2021 Omnibus Appropriations Bill and pandemic relief package, although it was not mentioned in a New York Times story on what was included.
If not for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, which alerted residents that the New River Gorge area in their state was about to become America’s 63rd national park, it may not have stood out in the 5,600-page package. The bulk of funds will go to individual payments, unemployment benefits, small business aid, vaccines and nursing homes, climate measure support, and medical benefits.
The New River Gorge area is home to a national river, a national scenic byway, and the New River Gorge Bridge, the world’s second-longest single-arch steel span. Built in 1974, the New River Gorge Bridge spans over 3,000 feet and connects the east and west banks of the river. Encircling the New River Gorge National River area is the 83-mile scenic byway, another attraction for the park. The route travels over interstates, divided highways, and two-lane connector roads, with plenty of views of the gorge and river.
“The New River Gorge is such an important part of West Virginia and a real source of pride in our state. I am thrilled legislation redesignating the National River as a National Park and Preserve is included in this legislative package. 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,” Senator Moore Capito wrote.
TThe NPS currently manages 62 parks and over 400 sites and monuments across 29 states. The New River Gorge will be West Virginia’s first national park. The designation becomes official when President Trump signs the legislative package into law, which is expected to happen this week.
[Images: National Park Service]
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I'm not sure what the process is, but Little River Canyon or the Sipsey Wilderness area in Alabama really should be National Parks.