EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSInvestigation Reveals New Details Of Coonskin Park Damage
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Web Producer: Heath Harrison
Reported: Jul. 24, 2013 10:04 PM EDT
Updated: Jul. 24, 2013 11:09 PM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Eyewitness News is digging deeper into a controversial storm clean-up at Coonskin Park in Kanawha County.
The company doing the job has been accused of illegally logging the park and cutting down healthy trees, to make a profit.
Last week, Bowen said he came in and “cleaned up a lot of stuff that had been laying here forever.”
But Eyewitness News decided to go off the beaten path at the park, far into the woods and discovered a mess of debris with trees blocking a stream and cut lumber that had been pushed far over the hillside, out of sight from the road.
The Kanawha County Commission alleges the damage was done by Bowen, whose company, Russell Trucking, was supposed to be cleaning up the park.
But, instead, Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper said Bowen went into areas where he was not supposed to be and cut down healthy trees, making more than $60,000 on the timber.
Eyewitness News obtained a document Bowen filed with the West Virginia Division of Forestry that specifically states he was there to clean up storm damage and that no roads or landings would be constructed, but newly-cut roads through the forest could be found leading to the mess.
Margaret Zaleski and her husband Joe walk the section of Coonskin Park every day and brought the situation to the park board’s attention.
“When we saw this, we were just horrified,” she said.
The area was damaged by last year's derecho, and a contractor through FEMA came and cleaned most of that damage up. Bowen was brought in, without a contract with the park board, to take away some of the damaged trees, near the roadway but his footprint appears to go well beyond the roadway.
“It’s a shame that it happened, because now the damage is irreparable,” Joe Zaleski said.
Bowen said in an interview last week that he only cashed in on storm-damaged trees to help supplement the job, because he was doing it for free.
The county commission and the division of forestry are continuing to look into the situation.
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