FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. -- A 5.6-mile long stretch of canyon slope extending from the New River Gorge Bridge to Hawks Nest State Park has been added to New River Gorge National River.
The land, which includes much of the scene depicted on the West Virginia state quarter, was purchased from residential developer Gary Driggs, whose Bridgeview Estates development adjoins the tract. Purchase price for the 619-acre tract was about $910,000, with money coming from the federal Land and Water Protection Fund, which is financed with offshore oil and gas lease revenues.
The land accounts for the first tract of National Park Service property to be acquired downstream of the New River Gorge Bridge on the Fayetteville side of the canyon. The new parcel lies within the proclamation boundary of the New River Gorge National River, which now encompasses 72,808 acres.
The new addition includes land extending from the edge of the canyon rim to the shoreline of the New River through much of the tract, or to the edge of an adjacent railroad right-of-way for the remainder of the parcel.
"The New River Gorge is known for its rich and diverse forests, and that is especially the case on this property, where logging has not occurred for decades, leaving a fairly mature cove hardwood forest," said Rodney Bartgis, state director of The Nature Conservancy.
The Nature Conservancy served as an intermediary on the sale, and commissioned an appraiser to determine a fair market price, which was approved by National Park Service appraisers.
"This purchase is critical to the New River Gorge National River in many ways," said Don Striker, park superintendent. "Protecting these large, intact forests is crucial to protecting the gorge. But it also will allow us to add six miles to the through-the-park trail, which will eventually stretch 100 miles through the park."
Striker added that the purchase also allows the park to help preserve the view on the southeast slope of the canyon downriver from the bridge. That view is one of the most visible in the park, seen by tourists at the nearby Canyon Rim Visitor Center, drivers on U.S. 19 crossing the bridge, paddlers on the New River, rock climbers on Junkyard Wall and Endless Wall, and hikers and bikers on park trails.