The National Park Service says it’s poised and ready for this weekend’s Bridge Day activities.

“National Park Service (NPS) staff at New River Gorge National River are busy preparing for the upcoming Bridge Day Festival on (Saturday). Only on Bridge Day are people able to walk out on the bridge and spend time savoring a spectacular view of this national park area,” park Superintendent Cal Hite said.

According to Hite, Bridge Day provides many first-time visitors the opportunity to learn about the cultural, natural and recreational resources that are protected within the park. “This national treasure is a special place in America, and Bridge Day provides a glorious setting for park visitors to experience their park,” he said.

The park staff welcomes thousands of visitors who come from around the world to enjoy the weekend’s festivities, as well as to celebrate the engineering marvel and its impact on southern West Virginia.

Safety of Bridge Day BASE jumpers and spectators is paramount, Chief Ranger Gary Hartley said. BASE jumping is a high-risk, extreme sport and will only be allowed when weather and landing zone conditions meet standards set and agreed to by event organizers, including Vertical Visions, the company that has obtained a permit on behalf of BASE jumpers to land on NPS property below the bridge.

“The permit conditions are designed to make an inherently dangerous activity as safe as possible for those jumping and those watching from land or water below the bridge,” Hartley explained. “Parachuting from such a minimally safe altitude leaves no room for error, and landing in extremely close proximity to spectators compounds the risks.

“In addition, many of the jumpers are first-timers, having attended classes just prior to Bridge Day.”

Hartley also cautions that spectators near the landing zone should be alert. If you walk while looking up, you may slip or trip on rocks; if you walk while looking down, you may not see a wayward parachutist headed your way, he stressed. Both are good reasons to enjoy Bridge Day from the deck of the span, Hartley added.

The NPS manages jumper landings at Fayette Station by keeping the landing zone open, and by maintaining access and parking for medical personnel and Jan-Care ambulances. NPS river rangers operate a rescue boat with a paramedic for medical emergencies and have a team ready to assist jumpers who land in trees or other dangerous situations. NPS staff also work with the media to provide equal and safe coverage of the event, in addition to coordinating busy commercial and private boater traffic and parking situations.

Hite says NPS personnel from all divisions will work together with many local, state and federal agencies and partnerships in conducting the state’s largest annual festival, which brings in thousands of dollars to the local economy and showcases the beauty of southern West Virginia to the world. More than 40 NPS employees will work this weekend to help ensure a safe and enjoyable day for all participants, including BASE jumpers and rappellers, whitewater boaters, autumn park visitors and the Bridge Day festival-goers.

“The NPS employees up top at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center accommodate thousands of visitors by expanding hours, providing Bridge Day information, and by providing a safe place to view the event from the park’s three overlooks,” Hite said. “Every year, the National Park Service works with the Bridge Day Commission and other area partners to help plan and organize Bridge Day.

“The NPS is a proud supporter of Bridge Day and the opportunity it provides visitors from around the world to see and experience this great park.”

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