The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 2, 2012

In the Gorge, downed trees, snow and a lone prospective camper

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

—  A Kentucky man, unfazed by a massive snowstorm that crippled most of West Virginia this week, is determined to camp out this weekend in the New River Gorge National River.

With a park so huge in scope, it’s hard to say no, so the welcome mat will be rolled out to the Kentuckian.

“Sure, we’ll let him,” Robin Snyder, chief of visitors services, said Thursday, “if we can get the trees cleared. We’re working right now.

“As long as the trees are cleared out of the road, he can get to the campground. I think he’ll probably come, so we’re working to get the campground open. The interesting thing about the park is, we have over 70,000 acres and we just really can’t physically close the campground and trails.”

Power was restored Thursday at the main office in Glen Jean, and Snyder expected to have it back up and running soon at the two visitor centers — Canyon Rim and Sandstone.

Heavy, wet snow fell in Hurricane Sandy’s tempest and knocked down numerous trees on the Fayette Station Road, along with the Cunard Road access and Royal Road leading to the Glade Creek campground, Snyder said.

Crews hope to have them re-opened by today but nothing was definite, while much of Fayette County struggled to recover from a snowstorm that piled snow in excess of two feet.

“The Division of Highways will take care of getting those trees out of the road,” she said of the Fayette Station access, which runs underneath the New River Gorge Bridge.

“We can’t even get down there to do any other kind of assessment as to any damage until the DOH removes the trees.”

Snyder said the facility also posted updates on its Web page along with the social network Facebook.

“The word is out fairly well to the community, at least about the park closures,” Snyder said.

“I’m not sure if we have the visitors, though. We’d like to get our visitors centers open to accommodate them.”

Snyder doubted the federal facility would get an accurate assessment of the trail until the weekend.

“A preliminary assessment let us know there are trees that are down across a widespread area,” she said.

“I would advise people not to use the trail. But if they choose to, just do so with extreme caution.”

As of Thursday, a cursory examination exposed no physical damage to any of the facilities.

“So far, it looks good,” Snyder said.

While some might view Sandstone as a summer-type venue, Snyder said this isn’t the case.

“You’d be surprised,” she said.

“At this location, just off Interstate 64, we get a lot of people that are intentionally coming to the park and then people that maybe are just passing by and see the arrowhead and the sign and stop in to check out the facility and ending up checking out more.”    

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In another locale, the blizzard led to the temporary shutdown of the Gerald R. Freeman Campground at Sutton Lake in Sutton, giving utility teams time to restore power and the Army Corps of Engineers time to clean up the damage. Visitors should call the lake office at 304-765-2816 to assure that no other storm activity impacted the facility.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com