Approval and development of a new paragliding launch site at Canaan Valley State Park was years in the making. A cooperative effort between stakeholders, including the Foundation for Free Flight, Canaan Valley State Park, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, made the site a reality. Paragliding clubs across the region are taking notice, and with Canaan’s chairlift making quick work of mountain access, paragliding is sure to bring more visitors to the area.
What Makes this Site Special?
The launch site is located atop Weis Knob, the same peak hosting Canaan’s downhill ski slopes. The site itself faces southwest and provides an excellent view of Mount Porte Crayon, Bald Knob, and Red Creek Valley. It’s a scenic panorama that brings the entire Allegheny front within view.
With chairlift rides to the launch site, friends and family are no longer left behind at remote sites far from landing zones. Spectators can join paragliders at the launch site and ride the chairlift to the bottom, grab a beer at the lodge, and watch paragliders from the resort below.
Getting the Site Approved
While paragliding in W.V. State Parks has always been allowed, cutting trees for a launch site was not. The Canaan Valley State Park superintendent was instrumental in facilitating the request to build the site. The park worked with the State of W.V. and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to determine what was necessary to move the project forward.
The area is home to the Cheat Mountain Salamander, a threatened species, so multiple surveys were needed to determine if tree clearing would affect their habitat. The surveys were costly and there was no guarantee a launch site could ever be built. Fortunately, the Foundation for Free Flight agreed to foot the bill, and as luck would have it, there were no salamanders found during the surveys.
Paragliding local Ben Herrick continued to push development by acquiring another grant from the Foundation for Free Flight, which, combined with funds from the State park, paid to cut the trees and build a boardwalk. The project culminated with the Mountaineer Hang Gliding Association, a local paragliding club, providing protocols for flying and managing insurance policies for the landing zones. The sign at the launch site bears the names of Foundation for Free Flight and Mountaineer Flyers for this important contribution.
Build it and They Will Come
Today, paragliding is growing much like whitewater kayaking was in the 80’s. With better equipment, safer gliders, and a growing number of launch sites, expectations have the sport growing over the next decade. With a growing number of launch sites, we can expect to see more pilots in the sky.
Paragliding clubs from around the region are ready to visit of the new site because of its easy access, its quick shuttle from the landing zone, and because of the resort amenities. It stands to bring in visitors from the Capital Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association out of D.C., the Skywacker Club out of Roanoke, Virginia, and the Hyner View Hang Gliding Club out of central PA. It’s likely to attract new enthusiasts to the local Mountaineer Hang Gliding Association as well.
While the process for gaining a new paragliding launch site in Canaan Valley may not have been easy, it’s a new resource that will augment a variety of other recreation opportunities in the area. Views over the valley are spectacular, and support from the community continues take these views to new heights.The Mountaineer Hang Gliding Association provides the protocol for flying at the Canaan Valley launch site. You can find guidelines and waiver forms on their website. You must be given a site briefing before flying, you must have a class P3 certification, and you must pay $30 to help offset insurance and other costs.