LANSING, W.Va. (WVVA) – It’s no secret the National Park designation has brought new visitors to the New River Gorge over the last year. Most residents have taken note of the packed parking lots outside popular trails.
However, new numbers out this week are showing just how much a title can help. According to a spokesperson for the National Park Service (NPS), the park has experienced a thirty percent increase in visitors over the last year.
What’s driving tourists to the region? For those stopping by the Canyon Rim Visitor Center on Monday, it appears there is something about a National Park that draws people in.
“It’s so beautiful up here. I just love it. And it’s a fantastic day,” said Max Wibaux.
“Honestly, I’m afraid of heights, but just seeing the grandness of scale takes my breath away each time,” said Amanda Wicker.
The stores associated with the park also saw a boost. The biggest jump over the last year happened at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, which experienced a 62 percent increase in sales.
Local stores in Fayetteville attribute their success in the last year to the designation. At the Ace Adventure shop in downtown Fayetteville, clerk Martin Hayden said “it’s something new. It brings a light to a part of the country that people don’t normally go to, in West Virginia with the Gorge and the bridge. It’s just something everyone has to see.”
In a state that has experienced significant population loss over the last decade, many state leaders hope the National Park designation will help turn the tide, especially if some of those visitors decide to stay.
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