POINT PLEASANT — Point Pleasant City Council is the latest entity to agree to draft a resolution supporting the continued operation of Tu-Endie-Wei State Park by the State of West Virginia.
Diana Johnson, who is a local park advocate, member of the Col. Charles Lewis Chapter NSDAR and organizer of the annual Battle Days event which utilizes the park, appeared before city council Monday night to stress her concerns about the park’s possible closure.
The park being on the chopping block all centers around a member of the legislature asking for information from various state agencies for possible fiscal solutions if faced with a hypothetical 6.5 percent additional cut in the 2016-17 budget. One of the hypothetical remedies, according to an article published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, was to close or operate unstaffed, several state parks, including Tu-Endie-Wei.
The perception that the park is safe just because it is part of a hypothetical budget cut, is a flawed one, Johnson argued. She said if the budget should need to be balanced, closing, or leaving Tu-Endie-Wei unstaffed, is listed as a plausible possibility. Much like her presentation to the Mason County Commission, Johnson cited an economic significance and impact study from the West Virginia State Parks and Forests saying 29,600 people visited the park in a year, generating over $421,000 into the local economy in relation to the park in some way. She estimated the Battle Days event had hosted educational days for 9,600 fourth-grade students from across the area over the years and according to the same state study, Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park had less visitors in a year than Tu-Endie-Wei but it wasn’t on the list for possible closure.
As with her presentation to the county commission, Johnson said if the state closed or operated the park unstaffed, this meant the grass would not be mowed, the facilities would not be maintained and items within the Mansion House, which are under the charge of the Col. Charles Lewis Chapter NSDAR, would have to be moved and stored elsewhere.
Johnson said in 1909, the Mansion House was shoved over the riverbank but was retrieved and saved.
“Now it’s our turn to save it and the park,” Johnson told council.
Councilman Bob Doeffinger said losing that park would be “disastrous” for the city.
“I’m appalled this is even being considered,” Mayor Brian Billings said.
Johnson said the annual operating budget for the park was $22,530, with $5,300 for maintenance. Johnson pointed out the park is free in terms of admission and attractions.
“We don’t generate enough money is why they’re selling us,” she told council.
Council members unanimously agreed to draft a resolution to be sent to the appropriate legislators and the governor’s office, voicing support for that park and that it not be closed or abandoned by the state should that hypothetical cut to the budget become reality.
(Editor’s Note: In a previous story about Tu-Endie-Wei State Park, Diana Johnson was incorrectly identified as Diane Johnson. The Point Pleasant Register apologizes for this error.)
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.