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National Park Status Proposed for Oregon, West Virginia State Parks


There's an effort under way in West Virginia to have Blackwater Falls State Park designated as a national park.

In what surely is an uncanny coincidence, there are proposals to turn state parks in Oregon and West Virginia that are built around waterfalls into national parks.

In the Oregon case, Silver Falls State Park boasts 14 waterfalls, while in West Virginia Blackwater Falls State Park is built around one impressive falls surrounded by hardwood forests.

Silver Falls State Park can be found about a half-hour drive outside of Salem in the foothills of the Cascade Range. The change in designation from state park to national park is being championed by Oregon state Representative Fred Girod, who touts the economic benefits a change in status would bring Oregon.

According to a story in the Corvallis Gazette-Times, the National Park Service evaluated Silver Falls State Park in 1925 and again in 1935 for national park status, but turned it down each time because the area was heavily logged. However, Representative Girod points out that the forests have regrown and are thick once again.

Back East in West Virginia, talk of seeking national park status for Blackwater Falls State Park comes as the state is working to buy 130 acres of land along the Blackwater River Canyon from a timber company. Two state senators, Randy White and Jon Blair Hunter, are sponsoring a resolution in the West Virginia Legislature asking Congress to consider designating the area a national park. As with Oregon Rep. Girod, the two West Virginia lawmakers are touting the economic benefits national-park status would bring their state.

During the eight years I spent in West Virginia going to college and starting work I visited Blackwater Falls a number of times. It is indeed a spectacularly beautiful place in Allegheny Mountains.

The question in both these cases, though, is whether the exposure national park status would shine on them would benefit, or overexpose, the state parks.


Thanks to Oregon Lottery dollars, state park user fees and recreation vehicle license fees, Oregon State Parks are in the black. They are well maintained and staffed. Turning them over to a federal agency that can't afford to maintain its current land holdings would be a mistake and is not in the best interests of Oregonians.

Silver Falls State Park is nice, but it's features aren't unique enough to merit National Park status. Instead, the federal government could takeover the 48 state parks in California that the governor is proposing be closed due to the budget crisis. Those parks include Sutter's Fort and the mission at Lompoc, both historical treasures of national significance.

Hmm, smells of pork...

As a resident of Oregon, I have to admit the Silver Falls area is beautiful, but is already very well governed by the state. I don't know if every waterfall in the country needs an NPS designation; if so, the Columbia River Gorge would be far more deserving of NPS status than the Silver Falls area (the Gorge is currently a National Scenic Area under Forest Service jusrisdiction).

If I look at the potentials for NPS designations, there are other higher priorities than these two areas. And an even higher priority than new NPS designations would be for us to take care of the ones we have.

Larger the government, the harded it is it to be concentrated at an subject.

From the old and the wise

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