Plymale hopes aggressive approach to Beech Fork study will get project moving

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A feasibility study and two public hearings for a possible lodge and conference center at Beech Fork State Park have been added to a bill being considered by the legislature in the final days of the 60-day regular session.

Bob Plymale

HB 3140 deals generally with state Division of Natural Resources infrastructure. Senator Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, and five other senators from the region, were able to get an amendment added to the bill that would require the state take a closer look at a possible lodge at Beech Fork.

“The people have been telling me all they want is a voice and a chance to get this lodge and this conference center,” Plymale said during a Saturday floor speech.

Beech Fork is a 3,100 acre park located in Wayne County. It features a popular 720-acre lake and 31 miles of shoreline. Supporters of the park have been pushing for a lodge for decades. A bond issue for the project was a part of a bill signed into law in 2012 but the state’s severe financial problems eventually prevented the project from advancing.

Plymale’s amendment requires two public hearings by Oct. 1. The first would focus on possible funding for a lodge and conference center including any public and private partnerships. The second public hearing would focus on the feasibility study and any recommendations. A report has to be submitted to the legislature by Dec. 1.

State Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch has agreed to the process, Plymale said.

“It will allow us that opportunity for our voice to be heard and if we can make the right plea and decision, come up with a financial package that is right, it will be done,” Plymale said.

A 75-room lodge was considered in 2012. Then state Parks Chief Ken Caplinger said the projected $29 million cost was close to receiving approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps did approve a feasibility study.

Plymale said there’s $3 million available in former bonding that can be used.

“We can put that as part of a package to do a road,” he said.

The 2012 plan had the lodge being constructed near state Route 522 overlooking the lake.

Plymale said he’s confident the long-talked-about project can get moving.

“This is a process that I think will work. We’ll have the next six to eight months to find that out,” he said.

The House of Delegates would have to agree with the amendment made to the bill in order for it to be sent to Gov. Jim Justice for his signature.

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