WEST JEFFERSON — As we approach the season of gratitude and cheer, New River Conservancy (NRC) would like to take this opportunity to give thanks and celebrate all they have been able to accomplish with their partners and community, particularly at the Elk Shoals Access of the New River State Park.

It was only with the community’s help that NRC was able to raise enough funds to purchase the 270-acre former Methodist camp in December 2018, and it is only with their support that they have been able to improve this public land since then.

“The addition of Elk Shoals has brought about tremendous changes for New River State Park. This was the first purchase the state made to add property to New River State Park outside the original 26.5 miles designated under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,” said New River State Park Superintendent, Joe Shimel. “This added significant land and river protection that extended the park to include property along 40 miles of river. Elk Shoals Access has quickly become one of the most visited access areas of New River State Park. New River Conservancy has been an integral partner in making this possible. They continue to be the driving force behind renovations and restoration work at Elk Shoals, including the latest river bank restoration project to protect the river and reestablish a healthy riparian zone.”

If you have visited Elk Shoals in the recent months, you will have noticed piles of rock and heavy machinery and wondered what the NRC had been planning. According to officials, they have been thinking ahead. Since 2019, visitation has increased significantly to the New River State Park and even more so since the start of the pandemic. With increased visitation to their public lands, many recreational hotspots have suffered degradation from overuse.

In partnership with New River State Park, the High Country Council of Governments, Foggy Mountain Nursery & Stream Restoration and the NC Department of Transportation, NRC was able to secure funding from NC Division of Water Resources and NC Department of Justice’s Environmental Enhancement Grant for the restoration of 500 feet of degraded riverbank.

“Elk Shoals is an amazing place. I grew up going to camp there ever since I was a small child. Lots of good memories swimming in the river, hiking in the woods, and discovering the life that it supports,” said Glen Sullivan, Owner of Foggy Mountain Nursery. “It was an honor and a privilege to be part of the team to restore and protect this great resource. I’m sure the public will enjoy this park for many generations.”

This most recent restoration project was Phase II of a larger effort to ReWild the Elk Shoals property by removing buildings, planting native trees and ultimately conserving the wild things that make Elk Shoals so special. The restoration project included enhancement of vegetative stream buffers, stabilization of eroding stream-banks and overall improvement of water quality and aquatic habitat.

But with all great achievements, the protection and restoration of Elk Shoals was realized only with the help of countless volunteers from college students from Philadelphia, to employees of Carolina Farm Credit in Jefferson, to doctoral candidates all the way from South Africa. So, while we reflect on what makes us thankful this year, NRC would like to extend their deepest gratitude to all who have helped ReWild Elk Shoals.

Founded in 1976, New River Conservancy is a 501©3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect the waters, woodlands, and wildlife of the New River Watershed. The New River, whose headwaters are in NC, flows through VA and West Virginia before joining the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River. Support the work and become a member of the New River Conservancy by visiting www.newriverconservancy.org/member.

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