Published August 1983 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Travel West Virginia West Virginia offers a spectacular array of mountains, lakes, forests, and rivers that each year draws more and more visitors into the Mountain State. Sightseers, hikers, swimmers, boaters, skiers, and white water rafters have come in increasing numbers to enjoy our state's resources and scenery, and they have made tourism West Virginia's third largest industry, behind coal and manufacturing. That means jobs for West Virginians and dollars for our state's economy. Tourism is West Virginia's second largest employer, with over 45,000 West Virginians working in jobs directly or indirectly associated with that industry, according to the state's Office of Economic Development's latest figures. In 1981, tourism brought $1.6 billion into our state's economy in direct and indirect sales, accounted for $74.8 million of our state's tax base, and paid out more than $255 million in wages for West Virginians working in the tourist industry. A conscientious effort to bolster tourism in West Virginia, on the federal, state, and local levels, has led to the development, improvement, and expansion of national and state parks and recreation areas across the state, from Pipestem in the south to Oglebay Park in the Northern Panhandle. The growth in our tourist industry, and its positive impact on West Virginia's economy, is proof that these efforts have not gone unrewarded. And those efforts are still going strong. Just recently, for instance, I took part in dedication ceremonies for the New River Gorge National River Visitors Center in Fayetteville, Fayette County. That facility, for which I was able to help obtain $145,000 in federal funds, will help us to better showcase the scenic New River for the tens of thousands of people who visit it each year. Further north, in Jefferson County, renovation and expansion continues on the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which draws an estimated 1 million visitors annually. That work will move forward with funding I was able to have included in the 1984 Interior Appropriations bill. And, action by Congress this summer will mean that construction will go forward on the Stonewall Jackson Dam and Lake in Lewis County, which will give central West Virginians not only better water supply and quality, but will also provide a major new recreation area for our state. With a continuation of this kind of commitment, we will be able to share more of West Virginia's natural beauty with visitors from across the country and around the world, and that will mean a boost for our state's economy and employment for West Virginians.