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Forestry expert to determine damage to park

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The attorney for the Kanawha County parks board has hired a forestry expert to help determine exactly how much damage was done by a timbering operation at Coonskin Park.

Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission lawyer Chuck Bailey said he asked Gillespie Forestry Services of Charleston to help calculate the costs of the damage and amount of money potentially stolen from the park when contractor David R. Bowen cut more than 300 trees in Coonskin during May and June.

Bowen was asked to help clean up storm damage left over from last year's devastating derecho storm. Parks officials have said he was authorized to cut down 30 trees, but allegedly cut down more than 300, which he then sold for more than $100,000.

Bowen says parks officials knew exactly what he was doing in the park, and that he had permission to cut logging roads and take the trees that he cut.

Kanawha County sheriff's deputies are also conducting a criminal investigation into the logging operation. Bowen has not been charged in connection with the operation.

State forestry officials counted the number of trees cut in Coonskin Park earlier this summer, but Bailey said he needed more help figuring out how much the trees were worth and calculating the damage to the park. Bailey said the forestry expert may also be able to figure out damage to the park because of the road-cutting operation and damage to trees that weren't cut down but were affected when the logging equipment passed.

"I just needed someone to do that final calculation, because I couldn't get it," Bailey said. He said he hopes to have a final figure on park damages by the park board's next meeting on Nov. 20.

Parks officials intend to file a civil lawsuit against Bowen unless the logger agrees to pay for the trees he took and damage he caused to the park. Bailey said he will present Bowen's attorney with a chance to settle the case before a lawsuit is filed.

"I'm going to make a one-time offer," he said. "If it's rejected we'll just move forward with the litigation."

If parks officials win in court, Bailey will ask Bowen to pay for the forestry expert's work.

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

 


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