Capito Makes Swing Through Fayette

FAYETTEVILLE — Obviously, Maura Kistler likes it when anybody walks in to Water Stone Outdoors and eventually opts to open their wallets to make a purchase. 

When it's a United States senator on whom Kistler can also bounce off some ideas, it's an added bonus. 

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was in Fayette County Tuesday to take part in several events. In addition to her stop at Water Stone, she earlier took part in a grant announcement event at Canyon Rim and later participated in a session at ACE Resort with industry leaders to discuss the possible change in designation of the New River Gorge National River to national park status, a bill which Capito introduced. 

After chatting with Kistler and fellow Water Stone owners Gene Kistler (Maura's husband) and Kenny Parker, in addition to browsing the shop's aisles and making some purchases, Capito called Fayetteville "a beautiful, small tourist town, a hidden gem." The tourist traffic in town would be expected to change dramatically "if, when we get the national park designation," Capito said, estimating there will be 20 to 25 percent more people visiting the area and taking in all it has to offer. 

"With the great business environment we have already here, (the area could) build on that," said the senator. "Water Stone has been here 25 years, and we hope they're here the next 25 years." 

A national park designation would increase the seasonal aspect of visitors, she said. "There's no reason we can't expect that." 

Maura Kistler said she was grateful for Capito's visit to the longtime Fayetteville business establishment, which specializes in outdoor and climbing gear, and for her general work on tourism-related efforts. 

"We really appreciate (the possibility of) this designation change," Kistler said. "And we want to thank (the senator) for her support of The Land and Water Conservation Fund." 

Utilizing the calling card of the "world class resources" of the New River Gorge area, Kistler said Water Stone and other tourist-related businesses are "attracting permanent residents" and "bringing Fayetteville tourism." 

But, more financial support from the state would make things easier, she stressed. 

"We're looking for a real tourism budget, not a fake tourism budget," she said. "There's not been adequate funding. 

"We need help. We need real funding." 

Business, she admitted, could be better. "Business is not that great. Of course, the general retail environment is struggling." 

An increasing online availability of products elsewhere has cut into the bottom line locally, but Water Stone has also branched out more into online sales. In fact, Kistler said Parker just told her that the store's online sales doubled over the previous year. Water Stone has also added a consignment component and tried other things to keep the business fresh. 

With all that, remaining viable is "very, very challenging," she said. "We need more bodies on the streets of Fayetteville."

By:  Steve Keenan
Source: Fayette Tribune