Timbering Company Faces Civil Lawsuit after Illegal Tree Removal at Park

By: Anna Baxter, Shannon Houser Email
By: Anna Baxter, Shannon Houser Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The company that is accused of cutting down healthy trees at Coonskin Park will soon face a civil lawsuit.

During a Kanawha County Parks and Recreation meeting Thursday, commissioners were updated on the illegal timbering at Coonskin Park in Charleston.

Commissioners say Dave Bowen removed more than 330 trees from park and only 8-percent of that was authorized to be cut down. Investigators say he sold the lumber for more than $100,000. Bowen was hired by the county to remove trees in Coonskin Park that were damaged by severe weather.

Commissioners are asking Bowen and his company, Russell Trucking, to pay nearly $150,000 for trees sold from the park. "This is from the Parks and Recreation Commission in an effort to recoup the losses we sustained during that and to make the park whole again," says parks Director, Jeff Hutchinson.

During the meeting it was revealed hundreds of trees were removed during the middle of the night without anyone noticing. The commission is still trying to figure out how that happened.

The Kanawha County Sheriff's Department has been conducting a criminal investigation. Cpl. Brian Humphries says the investigation is ongoing, but there's no evidence anyone inside the park was involved.

The Division of Forestry's study shows Bowen sold the tree stumps for more than they were actually worth and the tree removal cost more than $6,500 in soil damage alone. About $132,286 of timber was cut without authority. 77 hardwood trees were damaged, but not cut, totaling $1,558. The tree growth loss is $5,250.

Park commissioners say they will offer to let Bowen pay voluntarily. If he doesn't, they will file a civil lawsuit. The park board will submit its plans to the county commission at a later date. "We have damage to this park. We have a loss and it needs to be rectified," Hutchinson says.

The Division of Forestry revoked Bowen's logging license over the summer.

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