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Coonskin tree cleanup halfway done

Chris Dorst
Jack Marks (foreground), of Charleston-based Elk Well Services, takes a chainsaw to one of hundreds of trees blown down in Coonskin Park by the June 29 derecho. Kanawha County parks officials hired Elk Well Services to clean up the park in the aftermath of the wind storm.
Chris Dorst Kanawha County Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson inspects some of the trees already cut down. The trees will be chipped into sawdust or cut up for firewood.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Work crews hired to clean up massive storm damage at Coonskin Park caused by June's derecho are halfway done at the 900-acre park.

The massive wind storm that cut a swath of destruction five states wide on June 29 tore up or knocked down hundreds of trees in Coonskin Park. The upper part of the park, where most of the damage occurred, has been closed ever since.

In October, the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission hired Elk Well Services of Charleston to cut up and dispose of the downed trees in the park. Elk Well Services, which specializes in clearing utility rights of way, won the contract for the work with a bid of $138,000, according to Kanawha County Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson.

"They're working at a pretty good pace," Hutchinson said Friday, as work crews with chainsaws and heavy equipment cut up trees, dragged them away from roadways and chipped them into sawdust. Money for the cleanup is coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In the upper part of the park, where some shelters were all but engulfed by fallen trees, picnic sites were tangled masses of debris and downed trees choked the road in the aftermath of the storm, clearing work was almost finished last week. Stacks of logs 20 feet long and several feet in diameter lay stacked along the road, waiting to be ground up or cut into firewood. In the days following the storm, the same area looked like a bombing raid had hit it.

Once clearing crews are done cutting and moving trees away from the roads, they will work their way into the Coonskin trail system.

"They haven't started on the trails yet," Hutchinson said. "They want to get everything along the road cut and chipped first."

Parks officials don't know how bad storm damage is along the park's trails because they haven't been able to get to the trails to find out. Hutchinson predicts clearing trees from the trails will be akin to "hand-to-hand combat."

But Elk Well Services crews are confident they'll be able to handle the work. Greg Bradley, president of the company, predicts it will take about two more weeks to finish the job.

Parks officials want to have storm damage cleaned up and the park back in order in time to reopen next spring.

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


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