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Visitor questions derecho cleanup at Coonskin Park

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A concerned Coonskin Park visitor raised questions about whether a company hired to help with cleanup of last year's derecho ended up taking more trees than it was permitted.

Margret Zaleski told the members of the Kanawha County Parks Commission Tuesday morning she thinks the contractor cut down more trees than necessary, leaving parts of the park near the picnic shelters barren.

"He cut down perfectly good trees," she said.

Zaleski, who used to work for a lumber company in New York's Adirondack range, said she thought too much of the "slash" - that's the extra branches and leaves from a cut tree - was left behind along the sides of the hill and the job could have been done better.

She also said the heavy equipment damaged the road, something that Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson acknowledged. He said the company would pay for the repairs, which will begin next week.

Hutchinson said after the meeting that the storm hurt the look of the park but the contractor improved the appearance.  

"Does it look great? No," he said. "But does it look better than six months ago? Yes."

The area in question is along a loop of Coonskin Park that contains several picnic shelters. The entire area is along or near the top of a hill that was severely damaged during last year's storm. Specifically, some of the heaviest damage - and thus the most intense cleanup efforts - is near shelters No. 20 and No. 17.

Hutchinson said the contractor cut additional trees because they had become hollow or in danger of falling. Some of the brush was hauled away, and some was pushed farther down the hill.

The contractor, Russell Trucking, will return to repair some of the road that was damaged, and also plans to construct picnic sites in areas where trees had to be removed, Hutchinson said. That work should begin next week.

In other business, the commission:

  • Voted to permit the use of metal detectors in county-owned parks. Before Tuesday's vote, park visitors were not permitted to use metal detectors out of concern they would dig holes and damage property.
  • Hutchinson told the commission he has seen how metal detector users tend to make only small impressions in the ground when they are alerted of possible items, and they replace the soil after looking for the object. He said he has had requests from people to be allowed to use the devices.

    "I don't really have a problem with them doing that," Hutchinson said. "It's no different than a divot in a golf course."

    The commission agreed to allow the use of metal detectors but if damage started becoming a problem, the ban could be reinstated.

  • Was informed the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 88 in St. Albans decided to end its lease of the Pettigrew Park property, which is near Meadowood Park.
  • The agreement has existed since 2007 to allow the FOP to put a lodge on the property and allow an officer to live on the property with the goal of reducing unwanted activities like illegal dumping and illegal hunting.

    Hutchinson said the agreement was beneficial while it lasted.

    "It's been an effective way for us to control vandalism," he said.

    St. Albans Police Capt. James Agee, who is also vice president of the lodge, said maintaining the property has become too expensive.

    "We appreciate the parks working with us on that area," Agee said.

    Contact writer Matt Murphy at or 304-348-4817.

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