CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission voted Thursday to permit a gas company to drill a natural gas well on Shawnee Park property.
The company, Reserve Oil & Gas, plans to drill the well in an area between a set of railroad tracks south of the main portion of the park and the Kanawha River.
It has not yet applied for a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the activity, according to the DEP's website.
Reserve is the same company that has drilled wells at Coonskin Park, Capital High School, Yeager Airport and West Virginia State University in recent years.
Doug Douglass, a land manager for Reserve Oil & Gas, said the company recently acquired a pipeline that runs through Shawnee Park to West Virginia State University, and the company wanted to connect the proposed Shawnee Park well to that pipeline.
Douglass said the well would be similar to others the company has drilled on public property.
Such wells are vertical and are fractured using compressed nitrogen gas -- a vastly different process than the massive Marcellus Shale wells, which use hydraulic fracturing.
Parks commission members wanted to make sure recreation areas in the park and park patrons wouldn't be disturbed during the process.
"You wouldn't even see us," Douglass said. "We wouldn't be in the grass area."
Besides Coonskin Park, the parks commission has leased land for wells on property it owns in Charleston. The wells generate several thousand dollars annually in royalties for the park system and the parks commission is also entitled to a set amount of free natural gas for its own purposes.
The free gas will begin to be made available this spring after Reserve Oil & Gas made an agreement with Mountaineer Gas -- the parks commission's provider -- to credit the gas to the parks system.
The parks commission voted to allow the gas drilling at Shawnee Park, provided a lease agreement is the same as existing gas agreements between the parks commission and Reserve.
The lease comes at the same time a surface lease is pending for Shawnee Park, in which the city of Dunbar will take control of the park at the beginning of next month.
Though the lease with Dunbar has been approved by that city and the parks commission, it must be approved by the National Park Service, Hutchinson said.
Of the parks commission's four employees at Shawnee Park, three will transfer to Dunbar and one will remain with the parks commission.
"They're getting a pretty good package and they're keeping their jobs," Hutchinson said of the employees being transferred to Dunbar.