Buffalo National River Mary Hennigan

The Madison County Record has published the first of a two-part series about efforts to redesignate the Buffalo National River as a national park and preserve.

The weekly newspaper has done a superb job of covering the fallout around an idea supported by two Walton brothers who co-founded the company Runway Group LLC and the state’s first gentleman, Bryan Sanders. The Madison County Record has lifted the paywall on its Buffalo coverage.


In the latest article, publisher Ellen Kreth reached out to West Virginia residents about the impact of the federal government’s change of a national river there to a park and preserve.

“In December 2020, Congress re-designated New River Gorge National River to a national park and preserve, the only place in the country to have the combined distinction,” Kreth wrote.


The results have been mixed.

Business in the area increased. But, she reported, “Lack of infrastructure caught everyone off guard when federal funding did not accompany re-designation.”


There’s also a huge difference between the way the New River Gorge switch and the effort in Arkansas have been promoted.

“Unlike the public meetings about the re-designation at New River Gorge, several actions took place quietly in the 15 months between the Runway Group’s meeting with [U.S. Rep. Bruce] Westerman and the public learning about the re-designation possibility, including discussions with Gov. [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders and Westerman and the Runway Group and Bryan Sanders.”

The newspaper also succeeded in getting a comment from Alexa Henning, the governor’s spokeswoman who has not responded to our requests for comment on the matter.

Henning told the Madison County Record Bryan Sanders “does not support nor has he even discussed the idea of drilling or mining in the Buffalo National River.”