Approved bill creates state park endowment fund

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An organization which advocates for parks, forests, and public lands in West Virginia is praising an about face by the Justice administration and the legislature in regard to the upkeep of the West Virginia state park system.

The measure, SB 517, sets up an endowment fund to cover the cost of state park maintenance in perpetuity. The bill gained final approval Saturday, the final day of the 60-day session.

“A year ago they passed a bond that covered about 40 percent of the backlog on park infrastructure. They needed to cover the rest, or at least we felt they needed to cover the rest and we kept communicating that,” said Judy Rodd, president of Friends of Blackwater, and supporter of the bill.

The legislation this year covers the rest of the long backlog of deferred maintenance to the parks. Some of what needs to be fixed is basic, according to Rodd to help improve the parks experience for most.

“Simple things like water service, or sewage or let’s just fix the bathroom,” she said.

Trails, signage, and other items which have long been needed but couldn’t be afforded are covered by the endowment. It’s an endowment which will have an already existing funding stream from gas leases for drilling under the Ohio River. The park maintenance includes all of the normal state parks, but extends to rail trails and even some of the state forest areas of West Virginia as well where there are recreational facilities.

It wasn’t so long ago that Rodd and her organization didn’t have a lot of praise for the administration or the DNR for the parks effort.

“It’s a wonderful turn around from the idea that our government wanted to log the state parks, which we thought was horrifying to ending up with several bills in the legislature which will keep them going and keep them in the best shape,” she said.

Gov. Jim Justice will have 15 days to decide on the fate of the bill once it reaches his desk.


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