CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Commission has approved the final piece of the funding puzzle for the construction of a new bridge to Coonskin Park near Charleston.
That funding contribution of $1.5 million was approved at the commission’s Tuesday night meeting and will support a project that is meant to better secure the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 130th Airlift Wing.
“This is an opportunity to try to save it and it’s worth it and I’m proud of that Guard base and we’re proud to stand up for them because they always stand up for us,” said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper.
State and local officials said the new bridge is necessary to prevent the federal government from closing the 130th Airlift Wing.
The federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission tried to shut down the base back in 2005, one of the reasons being the security issues related to Coonskin Drive, the current entrance into the park, runs right through the base.
“You just can’t have the public driving through a military base and while it’s traditional for us and we all think it’s nice, it’s a real problem with the federal government,” said Carper.
So Coonskin Drive can be closed off to the public, state and local officials plan to build a $10 million bridge across the Elk River in the Mink Shoals area, which will serve as the new entrance to Coonskin Park.
Carper said it’s important to keep the base open because it’s valuable to Kanawha County, not only because of its economic impact of $89 million to the local economy, but also the protection aspect.
“In the time of a serious in this state, they’re the ones that come in and bring supplies and take care of us,” he said.
The rest of the money for the bridge will come from the state and the National Guard. Carper said their contribution to the bridge project is money well spent.
The project will be bid out in September and could be completed within two years.