Seven National Park Service campgrounds in the New River Gorge National River and one in the Gauley National Recreation Area on Tuesday became the latest West Virginia outdoor recreation amenities ordered closed in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Also on Tuesday, Nitro Mayor Dave Casebolt ordered the gates to city-owned Ridenour Lake closed in an effort to prevent crowds from gathering at picnic shelters near the lake.
New River Gorge Superintendent Lizzie Watts said all public restrooms in the park were also closed until further notice. Canyon Rim Visitor Center near Fayetteville was closed in mid-March, while the Sandstone and Grandview visitor centers had yet to open for the season.
In the New River Gorge National River the National Park Service operates campgrounds at Glade Creek, Grandview Sandbar, Army Camp, Stone Cliff Beach, Thayer, Brooklyn and War Ridge/Backus Mountain. The Gauley River National Recreation Area’s lone campground, Gauley Tailwaters, below Summersville Dam, was also closed until further notice.
Hiking and biking trails and fishing in the New River and tributary streams in the 72,808-acre federal preserve remain open, but users are asked to pack out litter and practice social distancing.
Casebolt said the decision to block vehicular access to picnic shelters and other gathering sites near the shores of Ridenour Lake followed personal observations of numerous park users failing to follow social distancing guidelines. Although most lake users made an effort to follow dispersed recreation health recommendations, “we are dealing with a pandemic and all safety precautions need to be taken,” the mayor said.
Ridenour Lake will continue to offer hiking and biking on its network of trails, Casebolt said, but all activities at the lake will be monitored by Nitro Police, according to Casebolt.