(July 09, 2014) - Natural beauty, fun and adventure in the great outdoors are some of our state's defining characteristics, bringing us worldwide renown as a terrific place to get away from it all. Those marvelous gifts are on display at their finest throughout our superb network of state parks.


With 49 areas in West Virginia, our state park system offers families from the Mountain State around the country the chance to make lasting memories -- kids roasting marshmallows around the campfire, families reconnecting in the tranquility of our outdoors, or parents watching a little one catch her first fish.


Since 1985, America has celebrated July as National Park and Recreation Month and this year, it reminds us all to get outside and in our local parks to enjoy everything they have to offer. This month also provides the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the outstanding state park system we have in West Virginia.


Our parks system was created more than 80 years ago. Since then, generations of families have returned each year to reconnect with traditions and rediscover all of the things that make our state special. And it's not just West Virginians who enjoy our parks. West Virginia state parks attract guests from many states and foreign countries with a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Our state parks provide the perfect place to build new memories.


Our parks reflect the history of the Mountain State, and their own long history. Many original structures created by the workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s remain in use, a testament to their skill and craftsmanship. As times have changed, so have the types of services provided by our state parks.


While parks offer seasonal recreation and nature activities designed to get people outside, we've also has made it a top priority to appeal to the needs of modern travelers.


In recent years, many facilities have seen major modernization and expansion projects. These include 38 new cabins, three major conference centers (including the beautiful conference center at Chief Logan State Park near my own home in Logan County), a new campground at Little Beaver State Park, a new lodge wing at Twin Falls Resort State Park, and the biggest project of all - the total lodge reconstruction and ski area upgrade at Canaan Valley Resort State Park.


In addition to great memories, wonderful vacations and preserving our natural heritage, our parks are important to their surrounding rural economies by attracting visitor dollars and stimulating nearby tourism businesses. In many cases, state parks are the primary venues for activities like swimming, picnicking, game courts, playgrounds, trails and golf.


In the coming decades, our parks system will be increasingly important as our ever-connected world becomes more demanding. These natural spaces for relaxation or adventure will continue to increase, and West Virginia will continue to be the perfect place to unplug, unwind and reconnect.


West Virginia's state parks are indeed a state treasure. I encourage you to explore our state parks, forests and wildlife management areas as often as you can and bring your friends and family with you. For more information about our state parks, call 1-800-225-5982 or visit online at www.wvstateparks.com.

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