July 23, 2024


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GMA shows some love to New River Gorge area | News

ABC News’ Stephanie Ramos can now count herself among those who have traversed the catwalk on the underbelly of the New River Gorge Bridge.

Ramos, an ABC News correspondent, was in Fayette County Thursday and Friday to shoot a live segment for “Good Morning America’s” “Rise and Shine” series. “GMA” was in the Mountain State this past week to film segments at various West Virginia locales.

“We’ve been really fortunate to have them here for a couple of days,” West Virginia Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby said Friday morning. “They’ve experienced stuff all around the state, outdoor recreation, food, culture.

“It’s really been a great couple of days.”

“Initially when I first heard of the assignment, I thought, ‘OK, this is going to be challenging,'” Ramos said after unharnessing and exiting the bridge catwalk following her live segment Friday morning. “But then we were out here yesterday (Thursday) and kind of tested it out. That was a nice little run-through.

“But I think the guys that work here, they have the best advice. Just look out, look forward, focus on the amazing view and don’t worry about the river below you. And that’s exactly what I did, and that really helped me get through the live shot this morning for ‘Good Morning America.'”

Ramos offered a sparkling review of what she saw and experienced in West Virginia.

“It’s lovely,” she said. “This is my first time here to West Virginia. We got a chance to talk to so many amazing people, folks that are from West Virginia, folks that just moved here a few weeks ago, and just seeing the landscape and just how beautiful the outdoors here really is.

“It’s something that I’m going to take back home with me to New York City, and know that, you know what, if you ever need a family vacation and to enjoy the outdoors, this is top on that list.”

The New River Gorge portion of the broadcast included a brief interview with Eve West, chief of interpretation, visitor services and cultural resources for the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the Bluestone National Scenic River and the Gauley River National Recreation Area. In her segment, West discussed various outdoor endeavors such as hiking, river rafting and fishing in which locals and visitors alike can take part.

John Denver’s famous recording of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” provided musical accompaniment for the segments, which also featured West Virginia pepperoni rolls from Chico Bakery, of Morgantown, as well as chats with WVU President Dr. E. Gordon Gee and members of the The Pride of West Virginia, the Mountaineer marching band.

Of particular focus, too, was Ascend West Virginia, a new program that offers financial incentives for workers to relocate to West Virginia.

In an Oct. 21 press release, Gov. Jim Justice announced that “Good Morning America” would air several segments about West Virginia.

“I am thrilled to welcome Stephanie and the entire GMA team to West Virginia,” Justice said. “To have the opportunity for West Virginia to shine on the national stage yet again and to share our success story with the outside world is going to be an incredible source of pride to everyone who calls our great state home.”

“We’ve been really fortunate that West Virginia has been in the national spotlight so much over the last couple of years,” Ruby said Friday. “With the national park designation (and) all the increases in tourism, and this is just one more thing.

“Gov. Justice said when he came into office we’ve got to bring more (attention) to West Virginia, we’ve got to do a better job of telling our story, and this is a part of that. It’s putting millions and millions of TVs across the country all with their eyes on West Virginia.”

The Dec. 2020 designation of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve “has been a huge boost for tourism in West Virginia,” Ruby said. “Since the designation, we’ve seen visitation increases of greater than 40 percent. So, it’s not only put us in the national spotlight, but we’re also starting to see people.

“It comes at a great time when Americans have fallen in love with the great outdoors again. If there was one good thing that came out of Covid, it is that so many people now want to be outside and it’s become a regular part of their daily lives.

“I think we’re going to continue to see more and more coverage of the park, we’re going to continue to see more and more people coming to the park and experiencing the great outdoors here in West Virginia.”

After watching the television coverage on a laptop with Division of Tourism and Bridge Walk representatives as it was broadcast live, Ruby said, “West Virginia really showed off for us this morning. We saw that fog coming in and I got nervous because I thought it was going to be too foggy, but right before they went live, it opened up and it was just the most beautiful view of the canyon.”

Ramos was among those testing herself Thursday on local mountain biking trails at Arrowhead Bike Farm, which is located on Gatewood Road in Fayetteville. An Oct. 21 posting on the Arrowhead Bike Farm Twitter account read, in part: “We were excited to have @gma and @sramosABC drop by Arrowhead Bike Farm for some riding.”

“It was a blast working with them,” Travis Brown, program director for Arrowhead Bike Farm, said Saturday. Of the program helping get out the word on mountain biking trails and that growing segment of the outdoor recreation industry, Brown said, “We were really excited with the opportunity.” For more, visit arrowheadbikefarm.com.

Benjy Simpson, managing member for Bridge Walk, which supervises tours on the bridge catwalk year-round, thanked the West Virginia Tourism Office, Jimmy Wriston, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation; and Becky Sullivan and the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, all whom were among those involved in a planning process that covered about four months.

In addition to working on the project Thursday, West Virginia Division of Highways employees were on the bridge well before dawn Friday and, along with State Police, moved bridge traffic on Rte. 19 from two lanes to one and supervised safety procedures as the filming process unfolded. “Mike Harper (DOH) and his crew did a fabulous job,” said Simpson, who noted the bridge was back open to traffic fully by about 9 a.m.

“It turned out well,” said Simpson, who commended anybody who worked on the project. “I’m glad Tourism pulled it off.”

He said that, once the live segment began airing Friday, Bridge Walk social media hits, for example, rose dramatically.

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