(08/01/2001)
By Bob Weaver

A new state park is being proposed for Wirt County at the site of the state fish hatchery. Bernie Dowler of the West Virginia Fish and Wildlife service told Wirt Commissioners yesterday, he was not hopeful for progress in the short-term, although he promised to help the Commission to look at future use. The Commission held a special meeting yesterday morning to discuss the issue.

Special meeting called by (L to R) Commissioners Lowe, Murray and Offutt

Fish and Wildlife administrator Bernie Dowler promises to help

Entrance to Palestine Fish Hatchery

Wirt Commissioner Bob Lowe has been leading an effort to develop unused areas of the Palestine Fish Hatchery for a state park with camping facilities. Lowe told the group that Route 5 offers a scenic drive along the Little Kanawha River, and is a preferred route of outdoors men and campers. He believes the integrity of the fish hatchery could be maintained.

Dowler said most of the services provided by the local hatchery will be moved to a new facility in Mason County in the next two to three years. The new hatchery is a $12-$14 million dollar program. "It is a hurdle to change the facilities use," said Dowler, having rarely been sold or transferred to other use.

Commissioner Lowe says "We believe in this project"

Senator Donna Boley gives support to project

State Senator Donna Boley asked Dowler if his agency could "Help to use it (the hatchery) to its maximum," and benefit the area. Dowler could not say what disposition would be made of the hatchery property if it would close in two to three years. He held hope the facility would be used for endangered species, after the new Mason facility is opened.

Senator Boley continued to give her support to projects which would help cash-strapped Wirt County.

The Wirt Commissioners, Offutt, Lowe and Murray expressed interest in developing the hatchery for recreational use. "Many years ago you could take your family to the hatchery for an outing, but that somehow changed," said Commissioner Murray.

Commissioner Lowe considers the development of a state park a good deal. "It promises tourism and economic development for the area," he said.

The Commission's proposal would create immediate jobs at the park, which would be used as an educational facility by the Department of Natural Resources. The river-front access, about one mile, would provide fishing for seniors, youth and handicapped individuals. Camping and picnic areas would be part of the project.

Lowe said trout fishing could be developed in the unused ponds, which could also provide ice skating in the winter. "I am also concerned about keeping the hatchery going in Wirt County," he said.

Much of hatchery area is wooded and could be developed

Hatchery functions predicted to move to Mason County

Hatchery ponds could be converted to recreational use


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