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Don't Mess With This Hole

It's never wise to close a popular tourist attraction in an election year, even if that attraction is just a hole in the ground.

On January 30, 2008, a guy in a suit showed up at Seneca Caverns, the largest show cave in West Virginia, and told its dozen employees to get out. It was a sad scene that's been repeated in dozens of assembly plants and computer centers across the U.S. But at a cave? Was Seneca Caverns being dismantled and shipped overseas, to be staffed by cheap labor?

Seneca Caverns is owned by Greer Industries, the biggest limestone operation in West Virginia. The Charleston Gazette reported local rumors that a nearby Greer quarry had gotten too close to the cave, threatening its stability. The local chamber of commerce director said that the first that she'd heard of the closing was when Greer called her and told her to start boxing up her Seneca Caverns brochures. No one knew what was going on, and no one at Greer was talking.

Then on February 13, Greer's legal department sent an e-mail to the Charleston Gazette. It said that the cave had been closed because "the business plan was not working" and that Greer was "evaluating the Seneca Caverns like any other asset in our company." It added that Greer did not have "any future plans to mine through the caverns," but this was hardly reassuring to the people who could no longer visit West Virginia's self-described underground wonderland, which would've celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2008. The cave -- home to the world's largest ribbon stalactite and a famous underground pool filled with golden trout -- was bolted shut.

An estimated 100,000 visitors a year visit Seneca Caverns. That's good for the local economy. Democratic West Virginia politicians voiced their disapproval of the closure to the Charlestown Gazette and the Rocktown Weekly News, and perhaps this got back to Greer Industries CEO John Raese, a defeated Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

On February 26 a Greer spokesperson announced that the company had "revised its business plan" and that the cave would reopen on April 16 as a seasonal attraction.

German Valley Rd., Riverton, WV
Off of US 33/Hwy 28 midway between Riverton and Seneca Rocks. Turn east on German Valley Rd and follow the signs.
Apr 1- Oct 31, W-Su 10-5 plus major summer holidays. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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