DNR closing recreational attractions at four WV parks - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

DNR closing recreational attractions at four WV parks

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Berwind Lake Berwind Lake
CHARLESTON, WV (WVVA) -

Due to budget cuts across West Virginia, some local parks will see some of their recreational attractions shut down beginning Saturday.

The Division of Natural Resources Director, Robert Fala, tells WVVA that out of their $1 million cut, about $600,000 affects Parks and Recreation.

He sent WVVA this statement:

"The recent four-percent budget cuts affect all DNR Sections but in particular, the Parks and Recreation Section, which is most reliant upon state General Revenue. After careful deliberation with the Cabinet and DNR Executive Staff, I would like to describe how the current cuts will affect us. But first, we want you to know that top priority was given to retaining all of our valuable staff while maintaining a management presence at the affected facilities. Addressing various federal-aid related audit findings added to our decision making. That is, federal revenues dedicated to Parks and those to Fish and Wildlife Restoration must do just that. Also, some activities or aspects of facilities have costs far in excess of their revenue.

"With that in mind, it was decided, effective January 9, 2016, to return the Berwind, Bluestone, Laurel Lake and Plum Orchard Wildlife Management Areas (WMA’s) to the Wildlife Resources Section, ending the Parks and Recreation Section role at these facilities. Moving forward, this will help the Parks and Recreation Section focus more on their core State Park facilities. In short, Fish and Wildlife oriented recreation such as hunting, fishing and birding will take precedence over Park oriented recreation such as swimming, picnicking and tennis at the subject facilities, which effectively will return them to their pre-1977 status as WMA’s.

"No changes are being made to any fish stocking schedules.

Director Fala says he was notified to make the cuts in December and he worries more could be coming.

Debbie King is a resident of War in McDowell County who spends a lot of time at Berwind Lake.

She says this is devastating news to the community. "Well another negative impact. That will be one more thing that the kids have taken away from them. And I just think it will be another reason for them to lose hope."

Berwind Lake will be losing its recreational activities like the pool.

Bluestone Lake will see changes like the closing of its approximately 300 primitive camping sites at the Wildlife Management Area. Bluestone State Park farther north is not affected.

DNR Director Robert Fala tells me that the reason these areas were chosen when the parks department was faced with the cuts was because they brought in low revenue compared to the costs of the activities.

King says in their struggling community, this is just one more blow. "I was devastated. I thought 'What else can they take from us.' It's the only recreational spot we have except for a small community park. But this does have the swimming pool, we have paddle boats. At this pavilion, we've had reunions, picnics, weddings."

While Director Fala says things like playground equipment and pavilions might not go away right away, they would have to get an auditor's approval to use Wildlife funds for any upkeep. King says the community is trying to see if there is anything they can do to reverse the decision at Berwind. "Something needs to be turned around. If we just keep letting things happen to us, instead of us having input, we may as well hang it up and leave."

There will be a community meeting Friday evening in War at the Southside K-8 School at 6 p.m.

DNR representatives will be on hand to answer any questions.

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