The National Park Service is beginning the process of making parts of West Virginia’s Monongehela National Forest a national park, something the state does not have currently. The process starts with a survey, scheduled for next month and planned to be complete in September 2012, to determine if the area is viable for a national park. Specifically, the survey would, “determine whether the historic, natural and recreational resources in the project area are ‘likely’ or ‘unlikely’ to meet Congressionally-required criteria for a national park.” That statement is per a press release from the National Park Service. The survey was requested by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin D and the proposed park is being referred to as High Allegheny National Park. The proposed area would also include parts of Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley state parks and well-known sites like Seneca Rocks, the Dolly Sods and Spruce Knob.
FAYETTEVILLE, WEST VIRGINIA — September 14, 2010 — The National Park Service announced today that it purchased a steep and forested slope along the New River Gorge, permanently protecting a large slice of West Virginia scenery including that selected for the ‘tails’ side of the West Virginia state quarter and seen from the overlooks at Hawks Nest State Park.
The Park Service purchased the 619-acre tract from a West Virginia real estate developer. The land, which will become part of the 70,000-acre New River Gorge National River, extends for nearly six miles along the New River from underneath the New River Gorge Bridge – the largest arch bridge in the U.S. –past Hawk’s Nest State Park. The newly protected land is familiar to whitewater rafters, who pass beneath the bridge, and to rock climbers who can see it while climbing some of the Gorge’s famed cliffs directly across the river.
But it’s best known to many Americans as the land just downstream from the bridge, an image engraved for posterity on the reverse side of West Virginia version of the U.S. Mint’s “50 State Quarters” series.
“This purchase is critical to the New River Gorge National River in many ways,” said Don Striker, the park superintendent. “Protecting these large, intact forests is crucial to protecting the gorge. But it also will allow us to add six miles to the through-the-park trail, which will eventually stretch 100 miles through the park.”
The Nature Conservancy, which has worked closely with the Park Service and state agencies over the past decade to protect about 8,000 acres along the New River Gorge, helped move this project along by having the land appraised and acting as a trusted third party in the negotiations, said Rodney Bartgis, state director for The Nature Conservancy’s West Virginia program.
“Not only does this protect a large tract of important forest, but to maintain such an iconic example of West Virginia scenery is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Rodney Bartgis.
The landowner was a group of investors led by Gary Driggs, who said he is pleased that the land will become part of the park.
“Personally, I’m happy to see the land protected, because it’s so important to the health of the forest and preserving the beauty of the gorge,” Driggs said. “The New River Gorge is important to West Virginia recreation and it’s good for businesses that rely on natural beauty, and that includes our nearby residential development.”
The New River Gorge National River is managed by the National Park Service and was established in 1978. The gorge’s steep walls make it one of the top five rock-climbing destinations in the country, but the park’s 1.2 million visitors also come to camp, ride horses, raft and hike.
The land was purchased with funds made available from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The property sold for approximately $1,500 an acre – or a total of about 3.7 million quarters.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
via The Nature Conservancy in West Virginia – Land Deal Protects Iconic West Virginia Scenes.
Washington, D.C.—According to a new assessment released today by the National Parks Conservation Association NPCA and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy ATC, one of the most beloved recreational footpaths in the United States, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, faces many challenges that put the experience of visitors and trail resources at risk. Adjacent land development on privately owned land, sources of air pollution, and funding shortfalls impacts the ability of trail managers to protect historic structures and preserve trail resources.
“The Appalachian Trail attracts millions of hikers each year, and we must ensure its unique American experience is protected for future generations to enjoy,” said Ron Tipton, NPCA’s senior vice president of policy. “This report demonstrates clearly that a strong commitment by government agencies and trail advocates is essential to preserve the AT’s unique natural and cultural values for future generations.”