A new report shows that tourism in southern West Virginia’s national parks injected more than $70 million into the local economies in 2019, which was before the coronavirus pandemic impacted the business in the state.
In 2019, more than 1.3 million visitors came to the New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River and Gauley River National Recreation Area, according to a newly released National Park Service report.
Local economies in Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh and Summers counties benefited from a $70 million boost, supporting 846 jobs. Similar numbers were reported in the 2018 Park Service report.
However, it is unclear if the 2020 numbers will reflect those of the past couple years. Due to COVID-19, the national parks have been operating at limited capacity, said Eve West, Chief of Interpretation for the southern West Virginia national parks.
“We do have people coming into the area more now and, you know, the businesses are showing some visitors and customers now, but, you know, undoubtedly numbers are going to be down some next year,” West said.
The three national parks are open for hiking; however, West said the campgrounds are closed and special programs have been cancelled.