By EARL RAY TOMBLIN
CHARLESTON – The Mountain State is known worldwide for its natural beauty and outdoor adventures, and this summer is the perfect time to explore all that West Virginia has to offer.
As families across the state plan summer vacations and outdoor activities, I encourage you to consider a visit to one of West Virginia's beautiful state parks. Whether it's for a week or two at a state lodge or campground, a weekend hike in the woods, an afternoon picnic or a quick swim in a state park lake, there's no better place to make memories.
Our state parks are creating new and innovative ways to entertain both Mountain State residents and visitors. For example, you can visit the recently refurbished Thorny Mountain Fire Tower in Seneca State Forest in Pocahontas County. The park now offers visitors the opportunity to truly embrace Mountain State scenery by staying at the top of a 53-foot steel tower overlooking the Greenbrier Valley.
North Bend State Park in Ritchie County offers opportunities to learn new and skills that are unique to West Virginia. North Bend is just one of many state parks that allow you to choose your own guided outdoor adventures from a list that includes everything from backpacking and kayaking to outdoor yoga. Other state parks offer classic summer activities like swimming, picnicking, hiking, game courts, playgrounds, bike trails and golf.
Wonderful vacations and weekend getaways at our state parks also support surrounding economies by attracting residents and visitors alike and stimulating nearby small businesses. West Virginia's growing tourism industry brings in more than $5 billion dollars and supports more than 46,000 jobs each year. These are real jobs for the wonderful people who call West Virginia home and welcome our visitors with a genuine hospitality that keeps them coming back again and again.
With 34 state parks, eight state forests, five wildlife management areas and two rail trails, the opportunities for summer fun and unforgettable memories are endless in the Mountain State.
To help accommodate your stay, many parks offer discounts throughout the summer and have specialized personnel on staff to ensure your stay is as relaxing or as exciting as you want it to be. A full calendar of events is online at www.wvstateparks.com.
This summer - and all throughout the year - visit your favorite state park or embark on an adventure at one of our parks or forests you have yet to explore. We have something for everyone in the Mountain State.
Tomblin is governor of West Virginia.