Media inquiries contact:

Jessica Spatafore, Director of Development & Communications at (304) 413-0945 or email

Adam Webster, Conservation & Communications Coordinator at (304) 413-0945 or email


Needleseye Park Ribbon Cutting

Property Transferred to the City of Oak Hill

By: Steve Keenan/The Register-Herald

Continuously adapting, expanding and trying new approaches has become the norm for businesses which want to survive in today’s economy.

Municipalities can also be included in that list.


The City of Oak Hill cut the ribbon Tuesday on Needleseye Park, a rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking park on a large tract of land around the Minden area. The West Virginia Land Trust partnered with the city to purchase 283 acres of land from Berwind Land Co. for public recreational use.

West Virginia Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby visited Fayette County for Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting, a fact which Oak Hill City Manager Bill Hannabass called “huge.”

While offering her thanks to the various entities involved in the process, Ruby thanked “most importantly, the community here, because you all have such a strong community when it comes to outdoor recreation, when it comes to tourism.”

When she attends events involving people in the region, Ruby said she knows there are going to be people who are passionate about tourism, growing the tourism economy, and outdoor recreation in the area.

“Day in and day out, you guys are the people who are on the ground.”

Ruby said Gov. Jim Justice’s administration has expanded the duties of the tourism office to include economic development, to look at ways to grow the state’s tourism economy.

“Everyone here knows how important tourism and outdoor recreation is to the state. I don’t have to tell you guys it’s a $4.3 billion industry in West Virginia. I don’t have to tell you that it brings in over $500 million in taxes. And I don’t have to tell you there’s 45,000 tourism jobs in West Virginia.

“Those are the reasons that we are all here today. It’s projects like this; it is growing the economy and adding new things to our list to promote.”

Outdoor recreation is consistently one of the main draws in the state, she said.


“When climbing really started to take off in the ‘80s here, people, of course, started off near the (New River Gorge) bridge,” recalled Gene Kistler, president of the New River Alliance of Climbers. “This place eventually got discovered here in the ’90s.

“We climbed here in the ’90s for maybe a couple of years, then maybe it was the Meadow River that everybody went to. It’s fun to discover things.”

“We knew about this place, and it’s just a brilliant move on the part of the City of Oak Hill to buy this and do this,” Kistler continued. “There’s a short list of cities in the U.S. that have climbing within the city limits, and it’s a prestigious list. And Oak Hill’s part of that now.

“What’s really nice about Needleseye is its exposure for winter climbing and for being here in the winter time. Frankly, summer time in Needleseye Park is kind of brutal. It’s going to be interesting to come up with ways to sort of mitigate that. But I think it’s gonna be primarily sort of a fall, winter, spring (best scenario).”

Kistler says the park offers a variety of options, including bouldering — “People are psyched.”


Brent Bailey, executive director of the West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT), said the fact that the project was locally-generated was a key.

“When we select projects, we’re looking for local buy-in,” Bailey said during a media hike before the ceremony. “This was an easy buy for us.”

According to Bailey, the WVLT seeks to get involved with projects that will provide public benefit such as protecting water supply, providing recreation and preserving history.

After exploring the title on the land and other areas such as mineral issues and boundaries, the WVLT wrote a proposal to move the project along. Needleseye features “beautiful West Virginia woodland and spectacular rock formations,” he said.

Hannabass termed Tuesday “a fantastic day for the City of Oak Hill.” Initiated in March 2016, the Needleseye project “moved at lightning speed,” he said.

Mayor Fred Dickinson and city council threw their support behind the project, and the WVLT and the state’s Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund came on board, as did other partners.

“You have to have multiple partners. You can’t do this as one entity,” the city manager said.

“I found very quickly that this property speaks for itself,” Hannabass said during the media hike. “It should be public, it should be protected, it should be for the enjoyment for all of us for generations and generations and generations to come, and it is, and that’s why we’re here to cut the ribbon.”


He said the project cost has been around $600,000, with the city and the WVLT contributing some funds, but the bulk of the money coming from the Outdoor Heritage Conservation Fund in the form of a grant to purchase the property from Berwind.

“Outdoor recreation is extremely important to our state,” said Jessica Spatafore, WVLT’s director of development and communications. “In addition to benefiting our current local residents and their health, outdoor rec opportunities strengthen our economy by increasing tourism, attracting new businesses and boosting the housing market.”

With the parking lot and access now available at the north entrance, other future work includes signage and creation of a south entrance, said Hannabass.

“There will be some more amenities to come,” as well as promotion of the park, he said.

To access the north entrance parking lot, turn on Gatewood Road from Main Street Oak Hill, travel 1.6 miles, turn right on Needleseye Road and go 0.5 of a mile to the parking lot.
Original story:


Celebrating Earth Day!

West Virginia Land Trust Celebrates Earth Day with the Help of Local Volunteers

In celebration of Earth Day, the West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) welcomed nearly twenty employee volunteers from MedExpress Urgent Care to help build new hiking trails in two WVLT-owned nature preserves.

“Outdoor recreation is extremely important to our community,” said Jessica Spatafore, WLVT director of development and communications. “In addition to benefitting our current local residents and their health, outdoor rec opportunities strengthen our economy by increasing tourism, attracting new businesses, and boosting the housing market.”

MedExpress center volunteers from Morgantown worked in the Toms Run Nature Preserve, which is a 320-acre natural area. The property is a “work in progress” and WVLT is planning to make it open and accessible to the public for hiking and nature study in the fall of 2019.

Volunteers from the Charleston MedExpress center met in the Wallace Hartman Nature Preserve. This 52-acre natural area has established trails and is open to the public. The preserve offers recreational and educational opportunities, habitat protection and scenic enjoyment.

MedExpress employees were able to volunteer with the WVLT through the MedExpress Volunteer Program in which team members can take a certain amount of time off to volunteer in their community with an organization of their choice.

Those interested in visiting either property or volunteering should call WVLT at (304) 413-0945.



West Virginia Land Trust receives $400,000 from Governor’s Office

WVLT_AML award_low
(Pictured above: Ted Armbrecht, WVLT Board of Directors; Brent Bailey, WVLT Executive Director; Ashton Berdine, WVLT Lands Program Manager; Larry Harris, WVLT Board of Directors)

Morgantown, WV – Monday, December 10 at the Courtyard by Marriott, Governor Jim Justice announced more than a dozen grants awarded to recipients in Northern West Virginia. These included two Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Grants, six Recycling Assistance Grants, and 11 Recreational Trails Program Grants.

“These grants are essential as we continue to grow West Virginia and provide programs that help our communities and citizens,” Gov. Justice said. “The multiplier effect on our return is at least eight times and many times it is more. As we move our state forward, and we are, the impact to our economy is substantial.”

The winter storm that affected Southern West Virginia prevented the Governor from attending the press conference. Bray Carey, Special Assistant to the Governor, attended on his behalf. Ed Maguire of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, which administers the AML program, announced the awards.

The West Virginia Land Trust was awarded a $400,000 AML grant to contribute towards the purchase and restoration of approximately 900 acres in Tucker County that include highly popular recreational trails that have become a regional destination for hiking and mountain biking. Upon purchase, the property will be called Yellow Creek Preserve, named after a tributary of the Blackwater River that flows through the property. The property also includes Moon Rocks, a rock formation that is a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers.

“This group has already been fundraising and invested some of their own money into this campaign to purchase the property,” said Ed Maguire, Director of the office of the Environmental Advocate for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. “That impressed us on the selection committee because this group put a lot of their own skin in the game,” Maguire said.

During the award presentation, Maguire recalled hiking the property and indicated that the property is a cornerstone for the recreation in the Canaan Valley area, which depends on tourism as an important part of its economy.

“This is an important piece of property that draws people to nearby communities and that we intend to make available to the public for recreation,” said Brent Bailey, West Virginia Land Trust Executive Director.

According to the land trust, the property is threatened by development, so they stepped in to see it protected.

“In recent years, parts of the property were being sold parcel by parcel into private ownership and that threatened public access,” Bailey said.

At the award ceremony, Maguire indicated that although the property sits in an area with abandoned mine lands, it still has significant recreational and conservation values. The property borders nearly 20,000 acres of other public lands that include the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area.

“It not only has tremendous recreation potential, it also includes unique upland and wetland habitats that create the iconic landscapes that draw people to the Canaan Valley area,” Bailey said.

To learn more about the project, visit or call (304) 413-0945.


Land Trust raising funds to buy Canaan tract encompassing ‘Moon Rocks’ bike terrain

(Click here for the article)
by: Charleston Gazette-Mail


2017 Annual Report

A SnapShot of Last Year: 2017 Annual Report
Seven land protection projects completed in one year!
 Click here to read the annual report!

Land and Water Conservation Fund in Jeopardy

Fund that Helps Protect Iconic WV Sites is in Question (Click here for the article)
by: Public News Service


Meet the Cheat Float Trip

Meet the Cheat brings more than 300 paddlers to Tucker County (Click here for the story)
by: WBOY


Needleseye Celebration on May 19th

Join us for a Celebration of Needleseye Boulder Park!
Together, the West Virginia Land Trust and City of Oak Hill will host a community open house to celebrate the opening of Needleseye Boulder Park on May 19 from 12:00-4:00 PM. The celebration will take place in The Lost Paddle restaurant at ACE Adventure Resort, with ACE offering shuttles to the Needleseye Park trailhead every 30 minutes for guided hikes.



Earth Day Tasting Tour

“Saving the world one sip at a time…” (Click here to view article)
by: The Daily Athenaeum


Save the View: Open House

Save the View event set to educate and inspire community to get involved (Click here for the story)


Save the View: Bickle Knob


Click here for The Inter-Mountain News story!


New Outdoor Recreation in the New River Gorge!

A new destination for outdoor enthusiasts has just been permanently protected in Fayette County.

The West Virginia Land Trust has partnered with the City of Oak Hill to purchase 283 acres of land from the Berwind Land Company for public recreational use. This property will be the future site of the Oak Hill Needleseye Boulder Park, to include rock climbing, hiking trails and mountain biking.



SnapShots: Fall Newsletter

Click here to download!


Morgantown Preserve Triples in Size!

Just south of Morgantown, near Little Falls, sits an 84-acre mature forest, known as Elizabeth’s Woods Nature Preserve. In 1995, Elizabeth Zimmermann donated the property to the West Virginia Land Trust (WVLT) to be managed as a natural area available to the public for hiking and nature study. More than 20 years later, the land trust is tripling the size of the preserve and eyeing a way to open the property to the public.



SnapShots: Summer Newsletter

SnapShots: Summer Newsletter 2017
Protecting special places one acre at a time… in this newsletter read about the additional 938 acres we recently protected!
Click here to read the newsletter!
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