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Coonskin Park 'decimated'; pool to open Wednesday

Kenny Kemp
Kanawha County Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson stands among the branches of a massive tree felled in Coonskin Park. Friday's windstorm damaged much of the 999-acre Kanawha County park.
Kenny Kemp Winds blew over a huge tree right behind the parks office complex.
Kenny Kemp High winds lifted a ramp in the Coonskin skateboard park and flung it 25 feet onto a neighboring ramp.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County parks officials said the Coonskin Park swimming pool will open Wednesday. But when the rest of the 999-acre park will reopen is anyone's guess.

"It's decimated," said Kanawha County Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson.

On Friday, high winds that tore through the Eastern United States ripped into Coonskin Park, toppling trees and wreaking havoc all over the park. Hutchinson said work crews have been in the park since 6 a.m. Saturday cleaning the damage.

"It's disheartening -- it really is," Hutchinson said. "The guys have worked so hard. The park was in good shape, and the pond was cleaned up. We got lucky with the weather, then this hits us."

Last month, crews were battling an algae outbreak at the park's duck pond. Workers just finished cleaning out the pond last week.

A massive pine is down at the foot of the pond, but the pond escaped major storm damage. Other parts of Coonskin weren't so lucky -- all over the park, oaks and sycamores claw at the sky like cadavers.

Hutchinson isn't done assessing the damage.

"It's a work in progress," he said. "We haven't even included what's down on the trails, because we haven't been able to get there yet."

Workers are beginning to make a dent in removing fallen trees and branches, but Hutchinson guesses hundreds of trees are down. "I'm begging, stealing and borrowing bodies," he said. Inmates from the county's day-report center will come Tuesday.

For the moment, work crews are cutting up the debris and throwing it into dump trucks to be disposed of in large piles. But Hutchinson hopes some of the debris can be salvaged for firewood.

"We can split some wood, but we can't split all this," he said.

Hutchinson said he will talk to the county parks board about issuing special permits to allow the public to come and cut the debris for firewood.

"If we can do that, we should be able to get rid of most of it pretty quickly," he said.

Parks officials are adamant about reopening the Coonskin Park pool, which was not badly damaged in the windstorm. "We're going to open the pool Wednesday," he said. "We have to, as hot as it is, and with people without power."

Hutchinson doesn't know how long it will take to clean the rest of the park. But he said there was one good thing about the damage.

"We're really fortunate that none of the trees that fell beside buildings went through them," he said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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