Coonskin Park visitors concerned about proposed CRW expansion plan, officials clarify

Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 7:18 PM EST
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The deadline is approaching to submit feedback on West Virginia International Yeager Airport’s (CRW) expansion plan, to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). A community group in Kanawha County is working to save a portion of Coonskin Park that could be affected by the project if it is approved. Chad Cordell said Coonskin Park has been an essential part of his life in Charleston.

“Coonskin Park is a place that has been part of the fabric of our community for over 50 years,” he said. “This is a place where we come for our kids’ birthday parties for family gatherings for church picnics, this is an asset to our community in a lot of really important ways.”

However, neighboring CRW has been the cause of recent concern for Cordell, the administrator of the Facebook group, Friends of Coonskin Park.

The airport’s proposed expansion project is undergoing an environmental impact review from the FAA. The proposed plan involves expanding the airport’s runway by 300 feet and a fill area for safety. The fill area would cut into a portion of Coonskin Park and be used instead of the airport’s current Engineered Material Arresting System, known as EMAS. The proposed plan involves the removal of the EMAS.

“What I do know is that we’re talking about destroying, literally coming in and clear-cutting and bulldozing a huge area of Coonskin Park,” Cordell said.

However, CRW’s Airport and CEO Dominique Ranieri said years of careful consideration went into the proposed project even before the final version had been submitted for FAA approval saying the expansion is a necessary part to keep everyone who uses the airport safe for years to come.

“The Federal Aviation Administration set safety standards for airports throughout the country, and it is the airport operators’ job to make sure that they are planning for the future of aviation and up keeping our facilities to the highest safety standards,” she said. “The proposed project is looking to the future to make sure that we can meet the ever-increasing safety standards as they are developed. And also be prepared to serve the future aircraft that will be coming to our market.”

Cordell said the section of the park is filled with a beauty that should be passed down for several generations and should not be touched by the airport. Ranieri, however, said if the proposal is approved, Coonskin Park could improve in many ways for years to come.

“We will use some of the parklands for borrow material to fill in that valley and then we’ll be able to return that land to the park as flatland for recreational development,” Ranieri explained. “Any impacts to the park will have to be mitigated, and they’ll be mitigated with the assistance of federal monies so that means that there’s a great opportunity for recreation in Kanawha County, to be improved, whether it’s right there in Coonskin Park, which will be a majority of it, or even elsewhere with new parklands that are purchased as part of the project.”

“I think it’s great that the airport wants to make improvements, they need to do so in a way that doesn’t destroy our public parks and, and that’s all we’re asking coonskin needs to be protected,” he said. “Really what people need to do right now is, is make those comments to the FAA, this is a place that’s important to our community.”

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