MEADOW BRIDGE, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice joined U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Congresswoman Carol Miller, and several other officials for an event on Friday celebrating the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in southern West Virginia.
According to a news release from the governor’s office, the park officially became America’s newest national park in December 2020. As part of Friday’s event, Gov. Justice unveiled all-new highway signage to reflect its new status as a national park.
“I do really believe that we live in the greatest place on the entire planet,” Justice said. “We have known forever how great it is to be in West Virginia, but the problem was the outside world never got it. This has been a collaborative effort that is now a reality and it is on its way to becoming something that none of us could have ever even imagined. Continue to dream big!”
The West Virginia Division of Highways will install 87 of the new signs, spread across three counties, beginning Monday, July 26.
The Governor and other officials on hand for the ceremony also recognized the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve for being named to TIME’s annual list of the World’s Greatest Places, which highlights 100 extraordinary travel destinations around the world.
“When we had the dream to designate this as a national park it was really an idea from all of the wonderful people who live here,” Senator Capito said. “What people will see when they come here is the true and complete story of West Virginia. Our beauty, our people, and all of the wonderful things that make us who we are.”
“People are making memories in West Virginia,” Congresswoman Miller said. “We welcome people and treat them like they ought to be and want to be. We have so much potential and people all over the world are seeing it.”
West Virginia Secretary of Tourism Chelsea Ruby was on hand for the event and announced that thanks to West Virginia’s increased investments in tourism and because of the natural beauty of places like the New River Gorge, statewide visitation hit an all-time record high in June 2021.
“In the month of June the state welcomed more than three million visitors,” Secretary of Tourism Chelsea Ruby said. “That is one of the biggest months we have on record and is unbelievable for a state that has a population of 1.5 million.”
The news release also stated: “The Governor also announced that, as part of his commitment to make the park the best place it can be for visitors, he has directed the Division of Highways (DOH) to double down on recent efforts to improve the road system around the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
“The DOH recently widened the shoulders on Fayette County Route 82 to provide additional parking space on two trailheads for the Endless Wall Trail. The DOH also recently collaborated with the National Park Service and West Virginia Department of Tourism to provide an additional 55 parking spaces at this location, where there was little available parking before.”
“On behalf of the National Park service I thank you Gov. Justice for these new signs, and also for all you’ve done to support the park and our efforts to protect this special place for generations to come,” Acting Superintendent of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Carmen Chapin said.
Sprawling 53 miles from just downstream of Hinton to Hawks Nest State Park near Ansted, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve provides over 70,000 acres of “breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences,” according to the news release.
Information provided by the office of Gov. Jim Justice.