Environmentalists express concern over Yeager runway expansion into Coonskin Park

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There’s opposition to a proposed plan to expand the West Virginia International Yeager Airport runway by 285 feet, cutting into Coonskin Park in Charleston.

The project would take up land which is used for picnic space and walking trails.

Mike Jones, public lands campaign coordinator for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, is concerned the expansion will have a negative impact on the park’s green spaces.

“It’s a unique ability to have access to an urban area for such a beautiful forested area and so we just want to make sure that the agency is considering all of the possibilities,” he said.

The coalition held a community hike Sunday to discuss concerns about the proposal.

Jones said the expansion could impact recreational opportunities at the park.

“It would go across a road that is the access to the parking area for several pavilions and for the walking and hiking opportunities along Coonskin Creek and the trails,” he said.

The FAA said in a statement “the proposed project will address needed upgrades and support the existing and forecast aviation demand at the airport.”

Matt Sutton, chief of staff for Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin’s Office, said the city supports the expansion.

“It’s critical to our economic development throughout the entire region and our state,” Sutton said on Monday’s “580 Live” heard on MetroNews flagship station 580-WCHS in Charleston.

The airport has been working on increasing air service to and from Charleston and Sutton said he believes this plan will help with those efforts.

“As the airline industry continues to struggle with finding pilots and having planes, we need an expanded airport to make sure we don’t lose services we have,” Sutton said.

The FAA is currently preparing a draft environmental review of the airfield, safety and terminal improvements.

The administration plans to host two in-person meetings on Nov. 2 and 3 from 6-8 p.m. at the Embassy Suites in Charleston and a virtual meeting on Nov. 7 from 6-8 p.m. The public comment period is underway and will be open until Nov. 17.

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