CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The former head of the West Virginia National Guard still hopes to build a $9 million bridge across the Elk River for the public to enter Coonskin Park.
At a meeting of Yeager Airport board members Friday, Allen Tackett repeated that the project could be critical to keeping the Air National Guard base in Kanawha County.
Last fall, Tackett told members of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission that the project might be dead, because money for it had been removed from the federal defense budget. He urged his fellow airport board members Friday to do whatever they can to help build the Elk River bridge.
Today, the Air National Guard base generates $89 million a year in revenue for the Charleston area, Tackett said.
"It requires only $9 million to build the bridge," he said.
The planned bridge leading to a new Coonskin Park entrance would be close to the I-79 Mink Shoals exit. Creating that new entrance would increase security for the Air National Guard base, located right next to the park.
Today, visitors to Coonskin Park drive about a mile along a road between Greenbrier Street and the park's entrance, passing several buildings and entrances of the Air National Guard base, which is home to the 130th Airlift Wing and its many C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft.
In 2005, the U.S. Defense Department's Base Closure and Realignment Commission threatened to shut down the 130th Airlift Wing -- effectively closing Kanawha County's Air National Guard base -- unless several changes were made, including increasing controls over public access to the area.
After an outcry led by local Guard officials and politicians, notably the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., federal officials decided to reverse the BRAC decision and keep the base open.