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Survey says tree cutting at Coonskin was unnecessary

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The unlicensed company that cleared storm debris from Coonskin Park earlier this summer cut 337 trees and damaged another 23, according to a survey by the state Division of Forestry.

Only 30 of those trees were actually supposed to be cut down as part of Russell Trucking's derecho cleanup efforts in the park, according to the survey.

The Daily Mail obtained the document Thursday afternoon.

The estimated market value of the cut timber is more than $100,000, Kanawha County Parks Commission legal counsel Chuck Bailey said. That's significantly higher than earlier estimates of $66,000. Earlier in the day, members of the parks commission discussed the situation during a regular monthly meeting. Bailey said he received the figures late Wednesday, but wasn't able to review them in time for the meeting.

"It was quite a lengthy thing to review," he said.

In May, the parks commission allowed Russell Trucking to remove debris from the 2012 derecho for free, providing the company could keep the debris. There was no written contract and the trees designated for cutting weren't marked in any way.

A park visitor later raised concerns that Russell Trucking did more than remove debris - it cut down healthy trees, too. In addition, Russell Trucking's heavy equipment tore up part of the loop road through the shelter area and created paths similar to logging roads through the forest.

It was later discovered Russell Trucking's state business license was revoked in late 2012 and the company owed more than $100,000 in taxes.

Bailey said he would soon make a recommendation on whether to pursue legal action against David Bowen, owner of Russell Trucking, by the parks commission's next meeting.

Kanawha County commissioners began their own investigation in July, and Commission President Kent Carper said his office found that some of the lumber was sold to a sawmill for $66,000.

In August, the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department began a criminal investigation. No charges have yet been filed in connection with that investigation.

Cpl. Brian Humphreys said Wednesday the investigation is ongoing, but he couldn't reveal more details.

"It's nowhere near being over," he said.

Bowen has been directed by the parks commission and the Division of Forestry to perform remediation work, which has included reseeding, patching of park roads and cleanup of slash piles. He is operating under the company name, "Bo-Ru, LLC," which was formed in July.

Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson said Thursday Bowen will continue to conduct paving work in the park and will return Oct. 10 to seal tree stumps.

The vast majority of the cut trees were oak species, according to the Division of Forestry report. Of the 337 trees cut, 103 were white oak, 88 scarlet oak, 62 black oak, 33 red oak and 13 chestnut oak.

Other harvested species were yellow poplar, sugar maple, black cherry, white ash, red maple, hickory and elm.

The report provides both International and Doyle board foot volume estimates. The estimated International board foot volume of the cut trees is 140,936 and the Doyle board foot volume is 114,401.

The division reported finding tops for 218 of the 360 total stumps. Volumes were estimated by measuring the distance from the stump to the top of the tree. Volumes for the remaining 142 stumps were gathered by calculating the heights of comparable trees in the area.

The division deducted rot from the volume of each tree when applicable.

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




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