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West Virginia’s New River Gorge National River is set to become New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, making it the 63rd national park in the country and 20th preserve.
The new federal stimulus relief package that was passed Monday includes COVID-related aid along with other end-of-year business items, including the name change for the Gorge, and an expansion of Saguaro National Park.
Virginia’s U.S. Sen. Shelley Capito is responsible for the addition, along with Senator Joe Manchin and Representative Carol Miller. The proposal was originally brought forth in 2019.
Outdoor recreation is a $9 billion industry in West Virginia, and Capito expects the status change to increase the number of visits by 21 percent.
Still, the change is only in the name. Funding for National Parks is no different than the other National Park Service units. Since the Gorge was already facilitated by the park service, the primary changes will be to signage, brochures and the website.
New River is a rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, and is among the oldest rivers on the continent. The park encompasses nearly 73,000 acres, of which 6,000 will be the “National Park.” The rest will be designated as a “National Preserve,” the primary difference being that hunting is not allowed in National Parks, but is permitted in Preserves. The net reduction in hunting land will be about 4,385 acres.
Additionaly, Saguaro National Park will grow by 1,152 acres, as part of legislation agreed to earlier this month that was folded into the legislation.
President Trump still has to sign the bill, and has nodded towards a possible veto, asking congress to amend it with bigger direct stimulus payments and less porkbarrel projects, but the omnibus spending bill passed with a veto-proof majority, and members of congress have indicated that there will be no new negotiations.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Trump signed the bill into law late Sunday night (12/27/2020).