Oak Hill considers 300-acre rock climbing municipal park
(News story courtesy of Register Herald)
OAK HILL — Council moved forward on a large land conservation effort that could change the face of the city by making Oak Hill a destination for outdoor adventure tourism.
City Manager Bill Hannabass said the proposed Needleseye Boulder Park is a nearly 300-acre destination in the Minden area of Oak Hill on land currently owned by Berwind Land Co.
“This will attract a huge number of people. It will enhance our tourism industry and help the City of Oak Hill economically,” he said. “It protects a treasure, not just for West Virginia, but for our nation. It is strikingly beautiful.”
On Monday council committed $25,000 toward purchase of the property and entered into a partnership with West Virginia Land Trust to secure the remaining funds through the organization as well as grants.
Ashton Berdine, lands program manager with the nonprofit land conservation group, said his organization often has trouble finding public recreation projects in which to invest. The group preserves working farms, historic sites and wildlife habitats across the state.
“The property is on a hillside, but there is plenty of space for gentle walking trails,” he said. “I can see this being used for climbers, but also older members of the community looking for a easy wooded walking trail.”
Packed with natural rock features, Hannabass said the site would be a draw for bouldering, an offshoot of rock climbing where climbers scale boulders without the use of harnesses and other equipment.
The proposed site feels very remote but is close to a lot of amenities,” he said.
“You always hear about rock climbing, not bouldering,” noted Berdine. “If this project is billed as bouldering, it could draw a different crowd or those nearby looking for a quick evening climb.”
This project’s feasibility is hinged on securing an Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund grant through the West Virginia Department of Commerce.
“We would be thrilled to contribute land trust money and thrilled the city is also willing to contribute, but we have to survive the application process,” Berdine said. “This is a good fit and an appealing project, but it is not a guarantee.”
The West Virginia Land Trust will prepare a grant application by Sept. 30.
Berwind Land is willing to sell the acreage, and the cost will be negotiated after it is appraised, he said.
Mayor Fred Dickinson said seeing pictures of the property and land features made him excited about the possibility of the park.
“I could be a big asset to the City of Oak Hill, and a park that everyone can enjoy,” he said.
“I’m so excited about the future of Oak Hill,” said councilman Paul Baker. “Things are moving on our schools, this Needleseye Boulder Park and our dog park. There are a lot of great things happening.”
Oak Hill Councilman-at-large Tom Oxley has been named president of the West Virginia Municipal League. He has been a member for 30 years.
City Clerk and Treasurer Damita Johnson has been named president of the West Virginia Municipal Clerks and Recorders Association.