Controversy is brewing in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle as the state’s Department of Natural Resources (WVDNR) considers a proposal to create a destination recreational vehicle (RV) campground in Cacapon Resort State Park.
While the WVDNR argues that the campground could make the park financially self-sufficient, many local residents and officials have expressed concerns over the potential impact on the park’s natural beauty and peaceful tranquility.
In December of last year, the WVDNR sent out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to possible vendors seeking private investment to construct a destination campground in the park. Three companies submitted proposals, with plans becoming available to the public on March 22nd.
One of the proposals, from Blue Water Corporation, a Maryland-based developer specializing in “outdoor hospitality,” includes the construction of 240 RV camping sites behind the park’s Nature Center, as well as 350 RV sites north of the northern portion of the Ziler Loop.
Local resident Craig Thibaudeau has been particularly vocal in his opposition to the proposal, stating that “This is an amusement park, corporate-like proposal. Nobody is going to benefit from this. You are looking at promoting business and industry in a state park.” Thibaudeau’s concerns are shared by many Morgan County residents, who have been holding weekly rallies at Capacon’s upper lake to protest the WVDNR’s RFP.
Despite this opposition, the WVDNR is holding a public hearing on the proposals on April 18.
A vendor has not been selected, and the WVDNR is under no obligation to accept any of the proposals as submitted, stating that it may negotiate the scope and specifications of any final agreement.
The proposed campground would be a significant departure from Cacapon Resort State Park’s current offerings, which include a golf course, a restaurant, a lodge, and cabins.
The park, which opened in 1937 and saw 409,358 visitors last year, has long been a popular destination for residents of the Winchester area as well as those from across the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
While the WVDNR argues that the proposed campground could help make Cacapon Resort State Park financially self-sufficient, concerns have been raised about potential drawbacks.
The Morgan County Commissioners, for example, penned a letter on April 5 to the West Virginia Chief of Parks Brad Reed in opposition to at least two of the proposals, citing concerns over traffic and safety issues at the park’s U.S. 522 entrance, overcapacity at the park’s sewer plant, and the clear-cutting of trees.
The proposed campground could also have implications for private campground owners and operators in the nearby area.
While the WVDNR notes that the campground would be designed as a “destination” rather than a “stopover” park, it could still attract some visitors who would have otherwise stayed at private campgrounds.
At the same time, private campground owners could stand to benefit if the proposed campground attracts more RV travelers to the area.
With the public hearing on the proposals set for April 18, the fate of the proposed campground remains uncertain.
While the WVDNR argues that it could bring growth and sustainability to the park, opponents argue that it could diminish the very reasons that visitors come to Cacapon Resort State Park in the first place.