2017-05-03 / Front Page

No fee to get into Cacapon or other parks, governor says

by Kate Shunney

Hours after last week’s Morgan Messenger went to print with a front page headline about new plans by the state to charge entry fees in the State Park system, Governor Jim Justice announced the fee idea had been yanked.

In a press release last Tuesday night, the governor’s press secretary said Justice was unaware of the entry fee pilot program and had not approved it.

Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Chief Stephen McDaniel announced Monday in a radio interview that the fees would go into effect on Memorial Day weekend at seven state parks – Cacapon, Babcock, Blackwater Falls, Coopers Rock, Little Beaver, Pipestem and Valley Falls.

Later that day, the DNR issued a press release about how the fees would work at the selected parks.

A day later, the Governor said he was “putting the brakes on the recent announcement by the Division of Natural Resources to charge park visitors a $2 fee.”

“The Governor called the DNR announcement an error and ordered the pilot program canceled. The initiative was put in motion without the Governor’s approval,” the Tuesday night press statement said.

“West Virginians are struggling and at this time there is no way I can go along with charging a fee to enjoy our state parks,” said Governor Jim Justice. “The move was announced without my approval. It’s a bad idea and I’m going to fix it.”

“West Virginia’s state parks will remain free and open to the public. When I see a mistake, I make it right,” Justice’s release said.

Cacapon State Park employees said they heard lots of feedback in the two days since the fee announcement was made, including some park users who wanted to buy a $12 annual pass that was supposed to be part of the proposed fee program.

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