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Hobet project gets new name and National Guard investment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s signature project to turn the former Hobet surface mine into a multi-use development site has a new name and a first tenant.

rock-creek-development-park-logoTomblin announced Thursday that the project’s new name will be Rock Creek Development Park. The project has a website, too:

“As of today, investors can learn more about the project,” Tomblin said Thursday during a news conference at the state Capitol.

The governor also announced that the West Virginia National Guard will make an initial investment in the park for a three-pronged seed project.

The Guard expects to use property next to the land identified for industrial development for national vehicle maintenance work, to increase training and to develop new agricultural operations that include apple trees and greenhouses.

During his last State of the State address, Tomblin expressed his desire to develop the  former mountaintop removal mining site just off U.S. 119.

The Hobet property includes more than 12,000 acres of flat land — a resource that state development officials say is a rarity in southern West Virginia.

Tomblin, a Logan County native, described riding his ATV along the property and imagining what it could be like as a development hub.

“We are one step closer to making this lifelong dream a reality,” Tomblin said before supporters and news media Thursday. “This project has its own story.”

Rock Creek Development Park would be named for the stream that runs along the property.

Hobet is in Boone and Lincoln counties, not far from Danville and about 25 miles south of Charleston.

Representatives of the Boone, Lincoln, Mingo, Logan and Kanawha county commissions attended Tomblin’s announcement.

Tomblin said the development would help diversify the economy in the coalfields.

“For decades, our coal miners, workers and their families have kept our state strong,” Tomblin said. “Now it’s our turn to help them.”

Tomblin described the project as a public-private partnership and said the state has reached agreement to with local landowners who are donating more than 12,000 acres to the state.

Burdette praised Tomblin for keeping economic diversification top-of-mind for southern West Virginia. Burdette described Tomblin as “obsessive” and “decisive” about the project.

“He knows and appreciates the challenges ahead to diversification in the southern coalfields,” Burdette said.

The big challenge for developing the project is making it accessible by highway.

A 2.6 mile four-lane highway would take traffic from the U.S. 119-Route 3 intersection in Boone County up to the site.

The highway is projected to cost $100 million, although state officials believe it will be eligible for federal funds.

A design-build bid opening for the Hobet highway project is supposed to be Nov. 1.

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