Partnership helps Forest Service reopen High Knob Recreation Area

Release Date: Jun 27, 2022

Contact(s): Public Affairs Officer: Gwen Mason (540) 676-7045


A crowd of people gather in a wooded settingNorton, VA. June 27, 2022—The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests’ High Knob Recreation Area fully opened to visitors this month thanks to the help from a coalition of local partners. This popular recreation site, located on the Clinch Ranger District in Wise County, was intermittently closed over the last three years due to multiple water system breakdowns.

A partnership among the USDA Forest Service, Wise County Public Service Authority, City of Norton and the LENOWISCO Planning District Commission completed critical infrastructure upgrades on the water distribution system.   

“The campground and day use area are beloved recreation sites that draw visitors from across the region to this area,” stated District Ranger Michelle Davalos. “I want to thank our partners and especially the field crews who conducted the work to make this site available to visitors again. This unique partnership was absolutely key in our ability to re-open the High Knob Recreation Area.”

“LENOWISCO is excited to participate with all of the project partners on this great project,” stated Duane Miller, Executive Director LENOWISCO Planning District Commission. “LENOWISCO is extremely thankful to be able to provide funding to help with the needed infrastructure improvements that will assist with the reopening of this regional, recreation treasure.” 

“The High Knob Recreation Area has been that one significant recreation asset in our region that has served multiple generations, so it made perfect sense that we should work with our regional partners to ensure that this asset will continue to serve our region for many years to come,” said Fred Ramey, Norton City Manager.

“The Wise County PSA is happy to assist our regional agencies and partners to further expand the quality of life for the citizens of Wise County and the City of Norton,” stated Cody A. McElroy, P.E., Executive Director of the Wise County Public Service Authority. “Regional partnerships such as this one will benefit all involved for years to come.”  

Beginning in 2019, LENOWISCO funded the Wise County Public Service Authority‘s engineering evaluation and phase one replacement of the High Knob Recreation Area’s water distribution system, including a $32,000 grant. Funding from the Great American Outdoors Act contributed an additional $20,000 to the project.

The Wise County Public Service Authority, with assistance of the City of Norton, completed the project in spring 2022, replacing over 2,000 feet of waterline, repairing electrical components, replacing the well pump, and pressure testing and troubleshooting the new system.  The WCPSA contributed over 840 hours of labor to complete the project. 

Additional enhancement projects were completed at the High Knob lake area thanks to the City of Norton’s Industrial Development Authority, the Friends of Southwest Virginia and the Appalachian Regional Commission. These included: repairing the siltation pipe, adding beach sand, and removing vegetation in the beach area.  Before and after imagery of this project can be found on the City of Norton’s YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/Bm33tw4WHUE.

The Forest Service continues to pursue funding to improve the historic buildings and update the wastewater system.

High Knob Recreation Area has benefited from partner support in addition to the water system replacement project. Members of the High Knob Music Festival actively help to maintain the grounds and facilities and completed a full replacement of the interpretive area stage in 2020.  The City of Norton helps to maintain roadside brushing to ensure the entrance road is clear for visitors.

For more information, please contact the Clinch Ranger District at (276) 220-1670, visit our website www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj, or follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GWJNF and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GWJNF

#