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Move Growing to Make WV’s New River Gorge a National Park

leah kirk


In recent weeks, resolutions calling for changing the New River Gorge’s designation from national river to national park — while not changing the way it currently operates — have been approved by city and county governments, tourism agencies and development boards along the 53-mile-long stretch of parkland.

Entities signing on to the name-change idea, being advanced by a group of whitewater outfitters, so far include:Fayette, Raleigh, Summers and Nicholas county commissions, the cities of Beckley, Hinton, Summersville and Fayetteville, Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, New River Gorge Convention and Visitors Bureau, New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, West Virginia Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, and the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association.

Since its creation in 1978, the New River Gorge National River has been managed by the National Park Service, which helped develop the Gorge into a major destination for whitewater riders, rock climbers, mountain bikers, hikers, hunters, anglers, birders, view seekers, and BASE jumpers.

“We see bringing national park status to the New River Gorge as an economic development tool,” said Dave Arnold of Adventures on the Gorge, among the outfitters seeking the name change. “It’s the best way we have to bring more people here and jump-start the next round of activity.”

According to a research paper done in May by Headwaters Economics for a proposal to make New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument a national park, eight national monuments that were re-designated national parks during the past five years experienced average visitor growth of 21 percent.

The number of overnight visits and the amount of visitor spending in the parks and in nearby communities also increased after being re-designated as national parks, producing a related increase in jobs. The study credited the national park brand for producing quality visitor experiences with the increased visitation.

“National Park designations are reserved for areas with truly remarkable qualities that signify to travelers that they are rewarding destinations,” said David Brown, vice president of government affairs for America Outdoors Association, a trade organization for outdoor adventure outfitters.

The brightly-colored copperhead, which is common everywhere (and responsible for the majority of bites). Some belief snakes only bite to defend themselves as a last resort. When threatened, they prefer to escape or to remain still, blending in with their surroundings. But if they decide to bite, they can move lightning-fast.

According to Dr. Christopher Holstege, medical director of the poison center, many snake bites happen when the victim is taunting or trying to catch or kill the snake.

“If you see a snake,” he advises, “back up. Stay away from it. Don’t jab at it with a stick or try to kill it. Just go around it.” The poison center recommends additional tips to avoid a bite: Wear boots when walking in tall grass, leafy forests, or other snake habitats. Sandals or bare feet put you at potential risk.

Also, snakes are attracted to areas that provide them with cover and shelter. Remove log or trash piles close to your house. Keep the grass or other vegetation near your house closely mowed or trimmed.

If someone is bitten by a venomous snake — stay calm. Deaths from copperhead or rattlesnake bites are extremely rare. The most important action is to get the victim to a healthcare facility as soon as possible so they can receive medical care for the pain, swelling, and other symptoms.

If possible, wash the bite wound with soap and water, and remove any tight clothing or jewelry to allow for swelling, which may be severe. Dr. Holstege advises: “Don’t believe what you see in the movies! There are many myths and folk remedies which have not been shown to have any beneficial effect on the victim’s outcome and in fact may cause more harm.”

In other words, do not apply a tourniquet; do not apply ice or use an ice bath; do not cut the wound; do not use any form of suction; do not give the victim alcohol or drugs; do not give the victim an electric shock.

“The doctor does not need to see the snake in order to treat you. All venomous snake bites in Virginia are treated with the same antivenom, if necessary,” the doctor adds.

Of course, if someone had killed the snake before it bites you, none of the above applies. An ounce of lead used in prevention is worth more than money can buy.