Capito's Bill to Make New River Gorge a National Park Could Increase Tourism by 25%

LANSING, WV (WVNS) - U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito announced plans to re-brand the New River Gorge. 

Something as simple as a name change could have a huge impact on tourism in our state, and it would come at virtually no cost. 

Capito visited Fayette County Tuesday to talk about the New River Gorge National Park Designation Act, a bill she introduced earlier this month, that would officially change the New River Gorge to a National Park.  

"Becoming a national park really raises the profile for visitors, not just United States visitors, but international visitors want to see our national parks because they're such a great resource," Capito said. "More resources are dedicated to a national park, I think national parks is looked at as increasing your visitor-ship by at least 20-25 percent." 

According to Capito, a study showed that eight former monuments that became national parks in the last five years saw an increase in the number of visitors by 21 percent. 

Capito said outdoor recreation is a $9 billion industry in the state that supports over 91,000 jobs. She also said the re-designation of the New River Gorge has the potential to catalyze economic growth in the area and attract adventure lovers from around the country. 

"Which means more people into the park, more restaurants serving meals, more visitors staying overnight, more people going down the river, more people rock climbing," said Capito. "I think because of that designation it would really make this a special place for West Virginia and I think we deserve it." 

Rick Johnson, owner of River Expeditions, a rafting company that depends on tourism to survive, said he is optimistic about the change. 

"The national park designation is a very powerful tool," Johnson said. "You have a lot of people that won't travel to places unless there is a park there so we will see a great bump in ridership and visitor-ship." 

Capito said the national park would help put money in the hands of hardworking West Virginians and back into the state's economy, and hopefully lead to more residents moving into the area.  

"Any place you have a strong tourism industry you start seeing growth in other business sectors," said Johnson. "People come here and visit and they see how beautiful it is, and they tend to locate here and maybe move their businesses so the national park designation will cause growth exponentially here in southern West Virginia.  

Capito said her bill would not change the way the New River Gorge is managed, meaning it would not touch current hunting and fishing boundaries. 

By:  Caroline Foreback
Source: WVNS