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Park Seeks Your Help Managing Gauley

Posted: 09/04/2003
by Jason Robertson

American Whitewater helped to establish the GAULEY RIVER NATIONAL RECREATION AREA in 1988 to preserve 25 miles of free-flowing Gauley River and six miles of the Meadow River.

If you have ever boated the Upper or Lower Gauley, you know that the river passes through incredibly scenic gorges and valleys containing a wide variety of natural, cultural, and whitewater features. Located in southern West Virginia, this unit of the National Park System encompasses over 11,000 acres of land, and is located between the towns of Summersville and Fayetteville.

The Park Service has scheduled a public meeting on September 23rd, 2003 at 7:00 P.M. at the Midland Trail High School, on Route 60 (1/2 mile east of Route 19) in Hico, West Virginia. This is the first meeting to discuss the new environmental assessment for the GAULEY DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT PLAN (DCP). 

The Park and American Whitewater hope that you will take this opportunity to stick around for two days after the Gauley Festival (www.americanwhitewater.org/events/info/GHome.phtml) weekend and share your ideas and thoughts about managing the Gauley. The Park really wants to hear from the private boater community, so it is important for you to attend.

What is the DCP/EA?

The Gauley River Development Concept Plan (DCP) and Environmental Assessment details how the Park will manage resources and provide visitor experiences at the Gauley River National Recreation Area. The Plan will reflect the conclusions and recommendations of the Gauley River National Recreation Area General Management Plan and Environmental Assessment prepared by NPS in 1996 (see below).

Most importantly for boaters, the DCP will include designs for new facilities, including publicly-owned access points and parking, and seek funding for their construction. The plan will also include conceptual plans for visitor interpretation and resource management activities.

What are the recommendations of the 1996 GARI GMP?

The 1996 General Management Plan (GMP) establishes the ultimate resource conditions and visitor experiences that will be protected in the Gauley River National Recreation Area. The GMP provides Park Service managers with the foundation for decision making in the new planning process.

The 1996 GMP establishes 6 management zones within the Gauley River National Recreation Area.

1. Outstanding Natural Feature Zone - This zone encompasses the Upper Gauley River Corridor and the Meadow River Corridor.

It is the focal point for recreational and interpretive activities. Facilities are to include:

- scenic overlooks with related small parking and picnic facilities
- trails, trailheads and related small parking facilities
- designated but undeveloped river lunch stops
- wayfinding signage
- interpretive signage
- wayside exhibits
- minor improvements to existing roads as needed to provide access to development zones and to provide access from U.S. 19 to the Meadow River


2. Resource Management Zone - This zone encompasses the Middle Gauley River Corridor and the Lower Gauley River Corridor.

It allows for traditional and recreational uses with protection from resource degradation as needed. Facilities are to include:

- scenic overlooks with related small parking and picnic facilities (in the Middle Gauley near Panther Mountain Road)
- trails, trailheads, and related small parking facilities
- primitive river camping with NPS vehicle access (at one site in the Middle Gauley)
- at least two developed river lunch stops, with NPS vehicle access
- additional designated but undeveloped river lunch stops
- wayfinding signage
- interpretive signage and wayside exhibits
- improvements to existing roads as needed to provide access to development zones

3. Development Zone - This zone encompasses developed sites and intense visitor use areas (including Tailwaters and all access points along the Gauley River).

It is an intensive visitor use zone, providing facilities for river access, camping, picnicking hiking, bicycling, and interpretation. Facilities are to include:

- small visitor and administration building (at Tailwaters)
- developed river access (at Tailwaters, at two or more sites in the Middle Gauley and at one site on the Lower Gauley near Swiss)
- comfort/changing stations
- boater put-in car and bus parking
- staging areas for commercial vehicles
- minor improvements to existing roads as needed
- developed camping at Tailwaters
- group camping (at Tailwaters and near Swiss)
- trails and walkways
- wayfinding signage
- interpretive signage
- wayside exhibits

4. Historic Zone - This zone encompasses areas potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitor uses include interpretation, sightseeing, study programs, hiking and bicycling. Facilities are to include:

- interpretive trails
- wayfinding signage
- interpretive signage and wayside exhibits
- improvements to existing roads as needed

5. Special Use Zone - This zone includes sites of active rail lines, active gas wells, and cemeteries. These are areas where NPS will not seek primary management control.

6. Areas of Potential NRA Boundary Adjustments - This zone include property within one mile of the authorized Gauley River National Recreation Area boundary.

It includes sites that may be determined necessary in the future to provide for adequate river access, NRA operations or emergency access. Facilities are to include:

- boater takeouts
- boater takeout car and bus parking
- comfort/changing stations
- trails and walkways
- picnicking
- wayfinding and interpretive signage
- staging areas for commercial vehicles
- remote parking and shuttle facilities
- minor improvements to existing roads as needed

What are the steps in the current DCP planning process?

- Data Collection, Identification of Issues and Scoping
- Public Meeting to Discuss Goals and Issues
- Development and Evaluation of Alternatives
- Public Meeting to Review Alternatives
- Identification of Preferred Alternative
- Draft DCP/EA
- Public Meeting to Review Draft DCP/EA
- Final DCP/EA
- Record of Decision and completion in the late spring of 2004.

Public Comment is Invited and Encouraged

Public comment is welcome throughout the planning process. Interested parties should provide their comments to NPS in writing, through e-mail, or using the comment card link below.

Write to:

Calvin Hite, Superintendent
Gauley River National Recreation Area
P.O. Box 246
Glen Jean, WV 25846

Park Headquarters: (304) 465-0508
Fax: (304) 465-0591

Please email your questions or comments to gari_dcp@nps.gov.

More information is available at: http://www.nps.gov/gari/gauleydcp.htm.

Upcoming Public Meeting

NPS will host the first public meeting on the DCP on September 23rd, 2003 at 7:00 P.M. at the Midland Trail High School on Route 60 (1/2 mile east of Route 19) in Hico, West Virginia.

Jason D. Robertson
635 Joseph Cir
Golden, CO 80403-2349