Can Blackwater Falls Area of West Virginia Support A National Park?
We have in the past touched on the possibility of the Blackwater Falls area of West Virginia being added to the National Park System, and an effort to achieve that status is resurfacing.
The February newsletter of the Friends of Blackwater Canyon talks of a High Allegheny National Park that would encompass not just the falls but "the scenic grandeur of Dolly Sods, Canaan Valley, Spruce Knob, Seneca Rocks and the Blackwater Canyon. Some areas will be in the park and others buffered by the park."
As with other efforts to create national parks, the Friends of Blackwater point to the resulting economic benefits such a park would bring to West Virginia. They also note, fortunately, the resource benefits that would be extended.
"High Allegheny National Park will promote clean watershed development and protect the pristine headwaters of the Potomac, Monongahela, and Greenbrier rivers; and will protect endangered species and sensitive ecological habitats," reads the newsletter.
The friends group also points out that no new public lands would be necessary to create a High Allegheny National Park, that it could be "created from existing federal lands, with hoped-for participation by the State of West Virginia. Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area will anchor the park. Other public land in the region will be joined together in common management, providing a rich and coordinated tapestry of outdoor experience for visitors from across the nation."
Having spent eight years in West Virginia earlier in my life, I can attest to the beauty of this area, both that of Blackwater Falls specifically as well as the surrounding Monongahela National Forest, the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, and the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks area. This is an incredible outdoor playground, with opportunities for hiking, backpacking, backcountry skiing, climbing, paddling, birding, and more.
The 17,371-acre Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest is a particularly interesting landscape, one normally found much farther north in Canada. Here you'll find not only rock outcrops but also bog and heath eco-types, according to forest officials.
Is a national park needed? As Friends of Blackwater notes, the area already is protected to a large degree. But addition to the park system would bring some greater protections for the existing natural resources. It also would bring greater attention to the area, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your viewpoint.