Resilient Holly River State Park makes a comeback - again - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Resilient Holly River State Park makes a comeback - again

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Holly River State Park is experiencing a new beginning … for the second time.
Countless trees had been wiped out and stream clean-up was a priority. That is an accurate description of the park in rural Webster County following a double dose of weather-related destruction in 2012. First came the devastating derecho only days prior to the Independence Day holiday. That was followed by the havoc wreaked by Superstorm Sandy just prior to Halloween.
Superintendent Ken McClintic said the June 29 storm resulted in significant damage to the park's structures, hiking trails and woodlands.
"Once we got cleaned up from that, we got hit with a large snowstorm (Oct. 29) due to Hurricane Sandy," said McClintic, who has worked at Holly River for two decades. "We had about 3 feet of heavy, wet snow. It uprooted trees and tore down power lines. We were without electricity and telephone service for five months."
Albeit a little behind schedule, the 8,101-acre Hacker Valley park was able to operate during the prime tourist season of 2013.
"There was never a doubt that the park would come back," he said. "It was just a matter of time. It took a lot of time and effort to bring it back to where it had been and make it safe to use."
Mother Nature's destruction was all-too similar of that caused by an over-aggressive timber company in an era before conservation practices were observed. It was manmade devastation that led to the creation of Holly River State Park in 1938.
McClintic, a Greenbrier County native and West Virginia University graduate, said the situation was so severe that the federal government moved in. Holly River became a resettlement project of the post-World War I Workers Progress Administration. Several of the WPA structures, including the park headquarters and nine cabins, remain today.
"The property within the park had been heavily timbered," he said. "Pretty much everything had been clear cut. It was just an environmental mess."
WPA crews conducted stream restoration and built roads. The government purchased the local homes and several families were relocated. A vintage one-room school has been preserved and moved near the park office.
The result of the work, then and now, is a resilient, destination park with a loyal following.
"Most of our guests are repeat customers," McClintic said. "We have families who have been coming here for years, bringing their kids and now their grandkids. It's like a tradition.
"People are getting the word that we are open again and we hope they continue to spread the word. Like good friends, patrons return to Holly River year after year."
Holly River features 10 small cabins, constructed of logs and natural stone, and 88 campsites situated along a 2-mile stretch. It's a popular location among the park's regular group of anglers.
"Fishing is a big draw, especially in the spring," McClintic said. "One of the cleanest trout streams in the state runs through the park."
Other scenic areas include Shupe's Chute waterfalls and the steep 2,480-foot elevation of Potato Knob.
"It's hard to get to, but once you get there, it's well worth it," he said. "This place is so lush and green in the spring and summer. The ferns, the moss … it's like a carpet of green."
Campers create their own entertainment during the spring and fall months. The park hires a seasonal naturalist to lead activities from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Holly River Restaurant has been selected as one of the "101 Unique Places to Dine in West Virginia." The park's foundation sponsors the annual Holly River Festival.
The sport of Irish road bowling is growing in popularity. Holly River hosts a tournament in October.
"We had seven teams the first year. Now we get 64. It's a big draw for us," McClintic said.
Holly River State Park may be reached at 304-493-6353.