Pipestem expansion

Gov. Jim Justice visited Pipestem Resort State Park to talk about the park's expansion projects. Justin said this investment, funded by state bonds approved last year by the Legislature, will add to economic growth. 

PIPESTEM — West Virginia’s governor announced about $11 million in ongoing renovations Thursday at a state park which are aimed at fueling the state’s growing tourism industry and stimulating the region’s economy.

Gov. Jim Justice visited Pipestem Resort State Park to talk about the park’s expansion projects. Justice said this investment, funded by state bonds approved last year by the Legislature, will add to economic growth. He looked at the wintery mountain landscape outside the McKeever Lodge and remarked about the scenic view.

“It’s easy to see how beautiful it is out there,” Justice said, adding later, “You’ve got to promote your state. Any frog that isn’t proud of its own pond isn’t much of a frog.”

The renovations will create construction jobs and other employment when they are completed, Justice stated. Work on these renovations is now underway. Improvements for Pipestem include a zip line course over the Bluestone Gorge, more than $3 million in lodge upgrade, a splash park, tram renovations, a $1.3 million replacement for the park’s water and wastewater treatment plant, cabin upgrades and campground utility upgrades.

Justice said the state was largely bankrupt when he took office, but now the situation has turned around and investments like the one announced at Pipestem are now possible.

“There couldn’t have been any possibility of doing what we’ve done here,” he said. “But today we’re doing it, and it took a lot of bold steps. It took a miracle from the good Lord to bless us, to bless us.”

West Virginia has many assets which should make it a strong competitor in the tourism industry, Justice told local leaders and other guests.

“This state is truly remarkable in every way. We live in a place that has four of the most beautiful seasons on the planet, we live within a rock’s throw of two thirds of the population of the country, we abound in natural resources like crazy— whether it be coal, oil, gas, timber, water,” Justice said. “I mean for crying out loud, our natural resources in this state are unbelievable. They’re unbelievable.”

The state’s people and their reputation for a strong work ethic is another asset. West Virginians who migrated to North Carolina and other neighboring states are often sought out by potential employers.

“Then there are the people of West Virginia,” Justice said. “You’re faith based, you’re grounded, and you’re conservative,” the governor said. “You absolutely know what hard work really means.”

Investments at Pipestem will have a big impact on the region’s economy, the governor stated.

“Well, the multiplier effect of tourism dollars is unbelievable,” Justice said. “Really and truly, you can usually look at a 10 to one multiplier effect. We’re spending $11 million here, multiply that by 10, you’ve got $110 million of impact, economic impact, of this facility in this area.”

Renovations have started already, and a new construction sight – the future spray park – is visible outside the lodge. Justice spoke about how the investments will stimulate job growth. Renovations at the park’s cabins and campsites will help generate construction jobs, and these jobs would morph into tourism jobs such as maintenance and hospitality service.

“The more people who come, the more jobs were going to have to have to take care of those people,” Justice said. “They come, they spend dollars in this state, and the multiplier effect of those dollars is unbelievable.”

“The economic impact will be huge,” he added. “That’s all understood. The more people who come, the more things happen. It’s just as simple as that.”

Renovations projects at Pipestem and other state parks are being funded by approximately $60 million in bonds approved last year by the Legislature, according to Stephen McDaniel, director of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

Pipestem Resort State Park is more than 40 years old, and not a lot of money had been put into the facility since it had been established; now $11 million in major infrastructure improvements are underway, he said.

The renovations would benefit both Mercer County and Summers County. Having these improvements would bring more people to lodgings in Mercer County, for example, a promoter of local tourism said.

“I think it’s very exciting for the entire region,” Jamie Null, executive director of the Mercer County Visitors and Convention Bureau said. “If you’re a resident of Mercer, Summers, McDowell, chances are you’ve had an experience at Pipestem Resort State Park sometime in your childhood or your adult life, so we’ve got a great connection. We’re thrilled to have an attraction like this right in our back yard.”

“It’s not only a tourism event, but an economic development event that will have payoff for years to come,” John O’Neal, executive director of the Mercer County Economic Development Authority said after the governor’s announcement.

County Commissioner Bill Archer said the Mercer County Commission has worked with McDaniel, who has “been a good partner” in the county’s Jimmy Lewis Lake restoration project. The renovations Justice announced at Pipestem run parallel with the Bluestone Valley Trails, a local effort to promote kayaking, hiking and other recreational activities along the Bluestone River.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com