By: Mat Cloak
The Parsons Advocate
Camping in the Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area will be prohibited starting January 1, 2018. According to Samantha Smith, Director of Marketing and Communications for West Virginia Department of Commerce, several factors contributed to the change in camping policy, including protection of the riparian areas along the Blackwater River, and the lack of proper campground infrastructure.
The new camping restriction will ultimately affect the Camp 70 Road section of the wildlife management area the most. Starting in Davis and stretching parallel to the Blackwater River for approximately seven miles, Camp 70 is a popular camping destination due to its convenient location to a plethora of highly coveted trails and town.
The convenience and popularity that is associated with Camp 70 comes with a cost. Abandoned RVs are left in numerous campsites along the road, as well as smaller trash like beer cans, toilet paper, and snack wrappers.
The general response from residents as well as those traveling to the area was disappointment, tempered with some understanding. “When I saw the sign I was kind of shocked,” Jaime Henriquez said, a frequent walker of Camp 70. “Most of the camping seems to be innocuous, it doesn’t seem to be an overburden.”
Some residents are nervous the Department of Natural Resources, who manages Little Canaan, will tighten the reigns on other recreational activities like biking and hiking in the area off Camp 70. According to Smith, the trails throughout the Wildlife Management Area, as well as along Camp 70, will still be open without any change in policy.
Smith anticipates this policy change will bring a positive impact to the community by “resulting in the protection and stabilization of the river bank and riparian areas of the Blackwater River. This will aid in ongoing conservation efforts in the region.”
The Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area consists of 3,168 acres, located south and east of Davis. According to Smith, before DNR managed the land, it was owned by the Canaan Valley Institute. Camping was allowed at 15 non-developed campsites along Camp 70. Blue paint and metal boundary signs designate the management area boundary.
A statement from the DNR articulated their intent of the area, “The Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area was acquired for the conservation of the fish and wildlife habitat and their associated species and to provide additional opportunities for hunting, fishing, bird watching, and other wildlife related activities.”
Instead of camping off Camp 70, the DNR suggests visiting the two West Virginia State Parks in the immediate vicinity, Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley Resort State Park, as well as the Monongahela National Forest.
Unauthorized activities in Little Canaan Wildlife Management Area will be regulated as outlined in the established rules and regulations according to Chapter 20 of the Code of West Virginia.