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Kanawha parks consider camping addition

By Matt Murphy, Local government writer

Providing campsites at Kanawha County parks could complement use of nearby rivers, Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission members said Thursday.

Coonskin Park wouldn’t be suitable because of lack of space, but Meadowood Park on the Coal River in Tornado has the capacity for a campground, Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson said.

“That’s something that would surprise you how many calls we get,” Hutchinson said of inquires concerning camping facilities, later adding, “It’s not only a good service to provide for people . . . it’s profitable.”

Commissioner Chris Hamilton brought the campground issue to the board in light of the construction of the new Elk River bridge to Coonskin Park and recreation options that could be made part of the bridge project, like increased river access. He said campgrounds could increase the utilization of rivers by giving people a place to stay right by the water.

Hutchinson said the Coal River Group, which has offices and its science and education center at the park, has expressed interest in making a campsite. He said he’s talked to Coal River Group President Bill Curry “extensively” over the past few years.

“There’s about 200 acres right off Smith Creek Road . . . that would probably be ideal for a campground,” Hutchinson said.

Part of the issue with creating a campground at Meadowood is building bathroom facilities for campers. Parks officials said that facility would need to be serviced by a sewer line and not a septic system, which the park currently uses.

The sewer line problem, however, might solve itself.

Earlier in Thursday’s meeting, parks commission members voted to allow the Greater St. Albans Public Service District to run water and sewer lines through part of the Big Bend Golf Course as part of a proposed extension project by the PSD in the area. That project will allow the facilities at the golf course to switch from septic tanks to the new sewer line, saving the parks system money by not having to make costly sewer pump repairs, Hutchinson said.

“The more of the septic tanks we can get away from, the better,” he said.

Big Bend Golf Course is just across the Coal River from Meadowood Park, and Hutchinson believes the Greater St. Albans PSD’s lines will continue to be extended through Meadowood.

“I think within the next year or so they’re going to start moving out that way,” he said.

Some parks commission members, including Anna Dailey and Janet Drumheller, said they would support getting a campground in place as early as next year.

“I think this is a wonderful idea,” Dailey said.

Parks Commissioner and Belle Mayor Buck Chestnut said he thinks the demand is high for a campground.

“People that camp spend months in advance to get a camping spot,” he said.

Currently, the only other campground on public land in Kanawha County is the 46-site facility at Kanawha State Forest.

In other business, the parks commission:

Received an update about the failing turf field at Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium in Coonskin Park. The turf was manufactured by FieldTurf, a division of Tarkett Sports, and installed just six years ago, but is starting to fall apart.

The remaining turf is safe to use, though some of the “blades” have come off the field.

The turf was under warranty, but instead of honoring the warranty, FieldTurf has only offered to provide a discount on a new field, parks officials have said.

Park legal counsel Jordan Herrick said he is “trying to get a deal” worked out between the parks commission and the company.

Learned Hutchinson is working to find alternate staffing options for the summer that may save the parks commission money. He said he’s currently working with the state Division of Corrections to provide inmate labor at the park.

“It’d be minimal expense to us and the benefit would be tremendous,” Hutchinson said.

Learned county pools will open to the public on Saturday, May 24.

Approved a right-of-way agreement with Swank Construction — the contractor that will build the Coonskin Park bridge — to allow the company to “lay back” the riverbank and support the bank with rock as part of the construction project.

Parks commissioners Hamilton and Retired Gen. Allen Tackett said they approved of the project and were knowledgeable in details of the change.

“I think what they’re going to do is probably the right thing to do,” Tackett said.

Hutchinson said the work should improve the appearance of the river once the bridge is completed.

“They think it’ll look a lot better,” he said of the contractor.

Were informed elections for parks commission officers will take place at the commission’s June meeting.


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