An iconic wooden gateway that welcomed visitors to Coopers Rock State Forest in the 40s and 50s is being reconstructed as part of a series of improvements at the popular state forest.
The project is a collaboration between the West Virginia State Parks system, the West Virginia Division of Forestry and the Coopers Rock State Forest Foundation, which came up with the plan to reconstruct the original entrance and raised money for the project. Construction will begin in October.
“We’re excited to be rebuilding the forest’s original gateway by using trees cut right here in the forest,” said Jan Dzierzak, superintendent of Coopers Rock. “The Division of Forestry is really helping us out by finding and cutting all of the logs we need for the project. Having all of the logs cut from the forest and installed here is going to make the gateway even more special.”
State agencies work together to manage Coopers Rock and other public lands for multiple uses
Coopers Rock, like all state forests in West Virginia, are managed for multiple uses by the West Virginia Division of Forestry and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ State Parks and Wildlife Resources sections.
“This project is just one of the ways the Division of Forestry is able to work with the Division of Natural Resources to give something back to the public,” said Travis Miller, assistant state forester for the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
After a two-day search for white oak trees, Miller and a team of foresters cut enough logs for the project. The new gateway entrance will be located near the current entrance sign on Route 73.
“We don’t know exactly where the original gateway was, but we have plenty of photos we’re referencing to help us bring the past to the present,” Dzierzak said.
Improvements are making Coopers Rock an even more attractive attraction
The gateway project is one of several improvements at Coopers Rock. Dzierzak said the forest has received a new tent-only campground, Tentrr campsites, trail upgrades and roadside picnic areas. He also said the forest will start a large cabin project and expansion of McColllum campground in the near future.
“I want to thank the Coopers Rock Foundation for all of their hard work in making this gateway project happen,” Dzierzak said. “Coopers Rock was already a popular tourist destination, so these enhancements are going to make the experience that much more memorable and enjoyable for guests.”
While the forest’s overlook is one of the most iconic views in West Virginia, Dzierzack expects the gateway will become a popular destination for photos.
“When you see pictures of Coopers Rock, it’s usually photos of the overlook and most people don’t see anything else that identifies the forest or shows off what else is here,” Dzierzack said. “This gateway will give us another location that really stands out and hopefully give the overlook a little competition for the most photographed spot in the forest.”
Established in 1936, Coopers Rock State Forest is popular with hikers, campers, hunters and anglers. The forest is located off Interstate 68, about 13 miles from Morgantown. To learn more about Coopers Rock or to book a trip, visit WVstateparks.com.