A Win For Our State Parks!
The following improvements were made: (1) changes eliminated the bill’s impact on all existing facilities in WV State Parks; (2) the possibility for 50-year leases was reduced to 40 years; (3) a requirement for public hearings on the private contracting of new facilities was added; and (4) “Any facilities constructed under the authority granted under this section must be in accordance with the purpose, powers, and duties of the Section of Parks and Recreation as provided by §20-5-3 of this code.” was added.
§20-5-3 reads “The purposes of the Section of Parks and Recreation shall be to promote conservation by preserving and protecting natural areas of unique or exceptional scenic, scientific, cultural, archaeological, or historic significance, and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for the citizens of this state and its visitors.” This language should help protect state parks from destructive or incompatible projects. Watoga State Park was excluded because of its status as an International Dark Sky Park.
Over and over again, West Virginia’s beautiful mountains, rivers, and farmlands have been the subject of the most outrageous commercial exploitation in the name of private profit. Once the profit motive comes into play, respect for history and natural values always plays “second fiddle” to money values. Our state parks are a place where we have drawn the line.
As West Virginia Supreme Court Judge Marmaduke Dent said in his decision in the case of Carrie Williams vs. the Board of Education of Tucker County: “Money values should not be set off against moral and intellectual improvement. A nation that depends on its wealth is a depraved nation, while moral purity and intellectual progress alone can preserve the integrity of free institutions, and the love of true liberty, under the protection of equal laws, in the hearts of the people.”
Right on, Judge Dent! Thanks to everyone who spoke out on this issue! it was again proved that the citizens of West Virginia value their state parks and that they will be defended by a spirited and concerned public.