Federal lands are a part of our national heritage. In West Virginia, they bring residents and visitors alike together for hiking, biking, camping, fishing and more. They protect wildlife habitats and offer scenic views, as well as provide endless opportunity for outdoor education.
Beyond that, they act as a huge economic booster and tourism driver for the state.
West Virginia’s eight national park units attract over 7 million visitors every year. In 2018 alone, these visitors spent nearly $74 million in the parks’ gateway communities. That spending supported more than 1,000 jobs and added $85.8 million to the state’s economy — money that was put back into businesses, schools and families.
Most national parks in the state suffer from a variety of deferred-maintenance needs. This includes the New River Gorge, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, areas on the Bluestone and Gauley rivers and the Appalachian Trail. Despite their undisputed value to the state, national parks in West Virginia require nearly $62 million in infrastructure repairs.
Leaders in Congress must make restoration a priority. Right now, this bill is supported and co-sponsored by the entire West Virginia congressional delegation, but we must keep it moving forward.
I hope readers will join me in urging our members of Congress to remain strong in voicing their bipartisan support for this legislation to secure the dedicated funding our parks need to stay vibrant for generations to come.