WV Public Lands: October 2023 Newsletter

Summersville Lake State Park: Plans Still Unclear

State Park Offices held a public meeting about West Virginia’s newest state park, Summersville Lake State Park, on October 24, 2023.  Director of Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Brett McMillion, Secretary of Commerce James Bailey, and other DNR officials made presentations to a packed house and answered some questions. Verbal public comments were not accepted, but there was a form for questions or comments.

We applaud the state for having high-level officials come to local venues and talk about our public lands. After the meeting, however, we still have more questions than answers.

Transparency is essential. Public meetings should have virtual options and materials distributed at the meeting should be available to review online. Our team is working on getting this information on our website to provide you with the information that was distributed at the meeting. Watch for WV River’s E-News coming out early next week.

Photo of the board presented at the first public meeting on Summersville Lake State Park

The picture above is the display board for the new park. The presentation suggested that this park will be solely for outdoor recreation. We support outdoor recreation, but State Parks are also supposed to prioritize conserving unique West Virginia’s unique natural areas.

We need additional information about lake access, permits, sewer hookups, and what is planned for the construction that has already begun.

Officials mentioned that this meeting was held to meet the requirements of HB 4408. However, there were no proposals or information about potential plans and contractors. We hope DNR plans to release proposals and schedule additional meetings and public comments as they did for Cacapon State Park this past spring.

The meeting was recorded and may be seen here. The media provided some coverage of the meeting. Secretary Bailey and Director McMillion stated that they would be willing to receive additional public comments. Contact Secretary Bailey at James.M.Bailey@wv.gov and Director McMillion at Brett.W.McMillion@wv.gov.

Legislature Starts in January: Tell us your Public Lands Priorities

Think about what you want: More public lands? Extend non-motorized trail safeguards to Wildlife Management Areas? Full funding for maintenance, non-motorized trail building, and staffing? Our public lands rich in biodiversity and intact ecosystems? Rich in nature-based recreation and quiet solitude? Modernized public notice rules for full transparency and public input?

Tell us about your dreams for West Virginia’s public lands. Fill out this quick survey from WVPL.

We’re setting legislative priorities now to have time to prepare for January. We want your opinion and invite you to complete the survey!

Look for more information and ways to take action during the legislative session.

Image of the WV State Capitol

The Art Gallery: “Create the Mon”

Image of a watercolor painting from the Create the Mon Gallery. There are deep green trees with rolling hills and a cloudy sky of pinks to blues.

Ten artists submitted more than 20 drawings, paintings, poems, writings, and videos. This art is available in an digital gallery. Check it out!

It is great to see our public lands imagined, re-imagined, and as a creative muse.

Remember, we are guests in the forests and on public lands. Please do not arrange, rearrange, move, or damage any natural part of the forest or in public lands.

Abandoned Gas Wells Affect WV State Public Lands

More than 580 of you sent in comments to the U.S. Department of Interior regarding the proposed rules for Oil and Gas Leasing on federal lands. Thank you for your advocacy!

Abandoned gas wells also are located on our state public lands. On October 16, WV Surface Owners’ Rights Organization hosted a hiking tour of gas wells in Kanawha State Forest. Participants observed abandoned gas wells leaking methane in multiple locations along popular hiking trails. Check out the picture of the Methane “Sniffer” giving an off-the-scale methane reading.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change when released into the atmosphere. We need strong methane regulations, more state inspectors, and a commitment to plug these old wells to reduce methane leaks.

Image of a methane "sniffer" with all five levels lit up.

Plan Your Trip to See the Capitol Hill Christmas Tree in WV

The USFS announced that they have selected the sawyers to harvest the Capitol Christmas Tree. The harvest team includes a sixth generation lumberjack and a botanist employed with the USFS for more than 4 decades. You can follow the Christmas Tree across West Virginia as it makes its way to the U.S. Capitol. The first event is Saturday, November 4, 2023, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Elkins Depot Welcome Center (315 Railroad Ave, Elkins). Additional stops include Summersville (Nov 5); Marlinton (Nov 6); Beckley and Charleston (Nov 7); Huntington (Nov 8); Wheeling (Nov 9); Morgantown (Nov 10 & 11); Upper Track (Nov 12); Davis (Nov 13); Romney (Nov 14): and Harpers Ferry (Nov 25). Details about each event are found HERE.

WV Rivers provides information about the Mon Forest and an opportunity to discuss the clear cool headwaters in the Forest. The Mon Forest website also has information.

Quick Takes on Our Public Lands – Get Involved with WVPL!

A hiker at Lindy Point watches the sunset over the WV Wilderness in Blackwater Falls State Park. Photo by Kent Mason.

Thank you for your support of WV public lands! Here are some quick takes – and how to join with others in supporting our public lands as a member of West Virginians for Public Lands!

Comment on WV Public Lands. You can tell the Department of Natural Resources what you think should be in your WV State Parks and other state public lands. There is still time to participate! Your efforts stopped the commercialization of Cacapon. But will your favorite State Park, Forest, Wildlife Management Area, or other public land be next? You can shape the future plans for our state lands by completing the survey. Please do this today, if you haven’t already, so that your voice is heard.

This is Bat Week! October 24-31 is international Bat Week. Bats provide ecosystem services eating pests for the benefit of plants. Here in West Virginia, bats include the endangered species of gray bats, Indiana Bat, and the Virginia Big-Ear Bat. The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge is home to 10 species.

Support our public lands: West Virginians for Public Lands (WVPL) is an alliance of organizations, businesses, and individuals advocating to protect and enhance West Virginia public lands for all. WVPL believes that West Virginia public lands, waters, and the wildlife that inhabit them are intrinsically valuable, and these special areas should be preserved, and where needed, restored. Is this something that you believe in too? We’d love you, your business, or your organization to be a part of this vision. Sign up HERE or click the button below.

Meet Your Public Lands – Pipestem Resort State Park

This month we go into Southern West Virginia. Pipestem Resort State Park is 4,050 acres of conserved lands and family recreation. Zip lines and an aerial tram give visitors a bird’s eye view of the Park and the nearby Bluestone River, West Virginia’s only Wild and Scenic designated river. There’s hiking all over the park, looking out over the Bluestone or taking County Line Trail to the Indian Branch Falls. There are two lodges, and plenty of camping.

Pipestem is named for the native pipestem or meadowsweet plant. With invasive species concerns, it’s great to honor our native plants.

The park shows how we can conserve our natural resources and have compatible outdoor recreation. Pipestem is located at 3405 Pipestem Drive, Pipestem, WV 25979.

Image of the rolling hills at Pipestem Resort State Park.
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