New River State Park Superintendent Joe Shimel
Since our partnership with Joe began, we’ve been able to add major parcels of land to the park’s property nearly every year. One of this partnerships shining moments occurred on December 17, 2018 with the purchase of Elk Shoals, an Ashe County icon. While NRC helped to raise the funds for the purchase, Joe and the New River State Park staff will continue to manage the property, as the addition of the property to the park ensures it is permanently protected. Joe may not be a native to the New River community but he’s known all along how special the area is - Elk Shoals in particular. When Joe first came to New River State Park, the Elk Shoals Methodist Camp was still in full swing, and like the rest of the community Joe witnessed the camp begin to struggle financially. When approached about adding the property to the park - it was a no brainer for Joe. While "Saving Elk Shoals" was undoubtely a major achievement for NRC, New River State Park and the surrounding community, this achievement also reflects Joe’s determination to preserve the waters, woodlands, and wildlife of the New River Watershed.
Elk Shoals United Methodist Camp, located on the bank of the
south fork of the New River in Ashe County, holds a special place
in the hearts of many. This is particularly true for Harry Corpening of
Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Harry spent his childhood summers at a summer cabin on the New River just three miles from Camp Elk Shoals.
Harry's history with the New River goes back to when he was just six years old, but his story with Elk Shoals really starts when he was invited to join the Board of Trustees for Camp Elk Shoals about 15 years ago.
At the time Harry had not visited the camp despite his family's cabin being only three miles down river. However, he quickly fell in love
with it and came up with the camp’s nickname “God’s Country". Harry even went on to create the famous sign that was once at the entrance of the camp reading "Welcome to Camp Elk Shoals 'God's Country'".
Historically, Camp Elk Shoals provided a place for faith-directed recreation. While it was traditionally a Methodist camp, Harry wanted to make sure everyone felt welcomed and increase the number of people using the Camp. Harry then helped change signage of the Camp from saying “Elk Shoals United Methodist Camp” to “Camp Elk Shoals – NATURAL FUN.” Later on, when the camp could no longer financially provide for all of its expenses, the Conference made the difficult decision to sell the Camp. Because of his knowledge of the history behind each of the Camp’s facilities, Harry was able to save the Conference money and time by informing them which of the existing facilities could be brought up to the existing codes.
This “theme” of preserving only the most viable buildings and returning the land to its natural state has remained a top priority for not only Harry, but the New River Conservancy as well.
Over the last several years Harry has also been actively working to prevent an asphalt plant in Glendale Springs from opening near the New River. This proposed plant would be located at an existing rock quarry which is only a couple of hundred yards away from the river.
Harry also participates in New River Conservancy's New River Water Watchers program, monitoring a creek that flows through the quarry into the New River.
Thank you Harry, for all that you do to protect the New!
Click HERE to get involved with or learn more about our Water Quality Monitoring program.
Click HERE for a project summary of Elk Shoals and updates on our efforts to Rewild Elk Shoals.