CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Parks Commission might sue a contractor who allegedly built logging roads and cut down trees in Coonskin Park without permission.
Parks Commission attorney Chuck Bailey said Thursday the parks board might take David R. Bowen to court if it turns out Bowen overstepped the terms of an agreement to clear storm debris and cut down damaged trees in Coonskin Park.
"If that happens," Bailey said, "I'll recommend to the board that legal action will be taken."
Earlier this year, members of the Parks Commission voted to hire Bowen and his company, Russell Trucking LLC, to remove debris left over from a Federal Emergency Management Agency-funded cleanup of Coonskin after last summer's derecho storm. Bowen also was asked to remove damaged trees near the roads, picnic shelters and other public areas that parks officials thought FEMA wouldn't pay for.
Parks board members were told that Bowen would do the work in exchange for a tax write-off and the chance to sell any of the lumber that might be of value. Bowen was not to be paid for the work.
The work was done in May. However, Bowen might have gone beyond the scope of the oral agreement, bulldozing logging roads and cutting down dozens of apparently healthy trees far from the roads and other public areas of the park.
At a meeting of the Kanawha County Commission on Tuesday, Commission President Kent Carper accused Bowen of timbering the park without permission. Kanawha County Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson said Russell Trucking was not authorized to cut timber or build logging roads in the park, and that Bowen was the only one with heavy equipment in the park at the time the trees were cut.
Bowen could not be reached for comment Thursday.
However, Bailey said the Parks Commission never intended to give Bowen permission to run a logging operation in Coonskin.
"The board would have never approved anything like that, and I would not recommend anything like that without more due diligence," Bailey said.
"This was just a cleanup issue," he said. "All [Bowen] was going to do was clean the material up and move on."
Hutchinson said senior parks staff members were on vacation when the cleanup work was done, and he was out of town for several days while Bowen was on the job. Parks officials did not discover until recently that Bowen apparently had cut logging roads and timbered the property.