WAYNE COUNTY, Wv (WSAZ) -- We often hear about tourism as a prime catalyst for economic development. That's the case, the hope, and the multi-million dollar effort now underway at one of West Virginia’s premier State Parks.
WSAZ.com’s Randy Yohe spent Wednesday on a legislative tour that went from boat and trail -- to picnic table at Wayne County’s Beech Fork Lake State Park.
The state senators and delegates who the pull the purse strings toured the mountain state’s top tourist destination for camping.
But, with plans for a $30 million lodge and conference center now underway -- Beech Fork is raising the tourism bar. Now, many are working to fund upgrades for the rest of the park.
They cruised the 720-acre Beech Fork Lake on pontoon boats, and hay-wagoned and hiked within the13-thousand acres that make up the state park.
State finance and park and recreation committee members picnicked with locals, and got the latest on the new cornerstone -- the soon to begin, already funded construction of a $30 million lodge. All with full amenities, a restaurant, conference center, and all the customary things at a state park resort lodge.
With a new lodge coming in, many believe Beech Fork's tourism destination potential will skyrocket. They say that calls for upgrades in the parks popular campground, the pool and the marina to name just a few.
“The ripple effect will spur more tourism," said local community activist Donna Thompson. "We want equestrian trails, bicycle trails, pedestrian trails -- and want local businesses to cater to all the expected out of state tourists.”
“It would be nice to have a road to connect both ends with the campground and the marina, and we need a fisheries upgrade and more stocking so sport fishing is better,” said Marina Manager Heath Wooten.
With lodge construction monies secure, Wednesday's tour hoped to convince state parks and recreation committee members to find funding sources for the rest of the park amenities.
“As we move forward our ability to raise that kind of money, based on the performance we'll see here, will be much easier to do," said Delegate Don Purdue.
“We evaluate all those relative to the number of other facilities throughout the state, but certainly this is an important area recreationally -- and the need is here,” said Senator Bill Laird.
With 270 almost always filled sites, the Beech Fork Lake Campground is the busiest in West Virginia’s entire state park system. The hope with the lodge addition and park amenity upgrades is to make beech fork a prime regional, even national, tourism destination. And many are working very hard to make that happen.
The hope is also that Beech Fork's $30 million lodge and conference center will be up and running by 2014.
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