On Thursday evening, January 28, members of the West Virginia Legislature, the Laurel Lake Foundation, the Mingo County Commission, and many citizens met with members of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in an attempt to save Laurel Lake. The meeting was held in the old Lenore High School gymnasium.
The DNR has proposed to cut the recreational facilities from Laurel Lake. This, if passed, will close everything at Laurel Lake, except the lake area.
Dr. Gail Hall, president of the Foundation, led the meeting by asking questions that were submitted by the public of Bob Fala and his staff. Fala is the director of the State DNR.
Before the questioning began, Fala explained that due to budget cuts he was forced to make these moves. He stressed that he was from Logan County and really disliked having to take such action. Fala stressed that Laurel Lake only brought in over $6,000 and it costed nearly $140,000 to manage the facility.
Senator Art Kirkendoll and Delegate Justin Marcum were the only state leaders in attendance. Each of them spoke about actions they are taking at the Capitol to help save Laurel Lake. Marcum has proposed legislation in the House that would maintain funding to the park. Both of the legislators have also worked together with Bob Fala and they have agreed to slow down the closure of the park. Marcum stated “the DNR has agreed with our request to slow down the closure and to meet with us, the county commission, and the Foundation to try and come to a solution that would save the recreational areas of the park.”
Dr. Hall and Lola Lackey, along with many members of the Laurel Lake Foundation were present and supported putting the brakes on the quick closure. They each expressed their concerns that the closure of the park would remove recreational activities that many of the citizens of Mingo County enjoy.
“I feel like it was a productive meeting. The news I gathered was that a process will be put into place to slow the process of closing Laurel Lake down and we’ll have approximately two years to come to a resolution,” Lackey said.
“I am so appreciative to each and every person who attended, it was indicative of the community’s support for the park for our children,” Lackey added.
“We will be moving forward to make additional improvements, the first improvement being a walking track which will help in the county’s focus on becoming healthy,” she stressed.
Marcum further discussed that a lot of state money was recently put into the park in the past two years. He secured thousands of dollars that gave the Foundation the authority to purchase the state-of-the-art playground equipment recently installed at Laurel Lake. “It would be a complete waste of money for our state government to close the recreational areas after the hard work we’ve done to improve the area in securing funding for the improvements.
Former State Senator Truman Chafin had secured funds to repair the swimming pool at Laurel Lake. The pool had been closed for a couple of summers until the former senator helped garner money to make repairs to the old pool.
County Commissioners John Mark Hubbard, Diann Hannah, and Greg “Hootie” Smith were all on hand. Each of them issued their support for the lake and pledged to do what they could to save the park. Commissioner Hubbard said he was pleased to see the “brakes put on the immediate closure and agreed to meet with the DNR and members of the Foundation and members of the Legislature to find a solution.”
State Senate President Bill Cole sent a letter to the meeting. It stated that he was disappointed by the decision to close the lake. He also noted he wanted to see it stay open because it was in his senatorial district.
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern)