WILLIAMSON – The Mingo County Commission discussed recent state budget cuts impacting the status of Laurel Lake during the public comment portion of a regular meeting held Tuesday, Jan. 19.
The Division of Natural Resources (DNR) made a recent announcement that funding for recreational activities would be cut at several state parks including Laurel Lake as a result of state budget cuts.
“I was approached by Lola Lackey and Gail Hall (representatives for the Laurel Lake Wildlife Management Area Foundation) about the closing of Laurel Lake’s swimming pool. I have a problem with any time these kids around here lose anything… I don’t know why we have to take anything else from these kids in this county,” Commissioner Diann Hannah said.
Teresa McCune from the Public Defender’s Office was in attendance at the meeting. McCune spoke up stating, “The foundation at Laurel Lake recently spent a lot of money revamping everything and putting in new equipment. “
“I don’t know what we can do, but whatever we can do, I agree that we need to do it,” McCune continued.
Hannah responded stating, “We need to make it known that this is not what we want as a county.”
Hannah discussed switching the Laurel Lake pool to a salt filter to cut down operating expenses. “Even their argument that it cost too much to operate the pool; it wouldn’t cost too much if they switched to a salt filter. Then you don’t have all this expense,” Hannah explained. “We definitely do not need to lose that.”
Commissioner John Mark Hubbard responded saying, “We cannot continue to lose things that people like. That property is beautiful.”
“That is the only public pool in the county still operating,” Hannah said.
Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith responded stating, “One of the things that we have done is we approached Delegate Justin Marcum and asked him to set up a meeting with Wildlife and with State Parks and sit down and express our concerns.”
According to Lola Lackey, a meeting has been scheduled with the state DNR concerning Laurel Lake. Lackey issued the following statement, “Notice to all Mingo residents. I have secured us a meeting with the DNR in regards to Laurel Lake. It will be this Thursday(Jan.28) at 6:00 pm. I hope everyone can attend at the old Lenore gym.”
Chelsa Ruby, with the DNR explained that while Laurel Lake will be losing non wildlife related recreational activities, the lake and other wildlife related activities will remain open. “Laurel Lake Wildlife Management Area will not be closing. West Virginia State Parks is returning it to DNR’s Wildlife Resources Section, reverting it to its pre-1977 status. Wildlife Resources manages close to 100 WMAs around the state for wildlife-associated recreational uses, including hunting and fishing. A small number of WMAs that have non-wildlife-associated recreational facilities have been under the management of State Parks since 1977. Due to a 4 percent state budget cut as well as low usage and high operating costs, four of those facilities (including Laurel Lake) are being transferred back to Wildlife Resources. Wildlife Resources will use its federal funding to care for them the wildlife-related recreation and the non-wildlife recreational aspects will be discontinued,” Ruby stated.
More information about Laurel Lake can be found by visiting http://www.laurellakewma.com.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-234-4242 ext. 2279.)