Senator Charles Trump (R-Morgan County) late last night voted with the West Virginia Senate 32 to 10 to pass a bill that could transform Cacapon State Park and all other West Virginia state parks – except for one – from nature parks to commercialized playgrounds, allowing corporations to come in and build for profit pay to play amusement parks, racetracks, casinos, and large scale RV parks.
Watoga State Park, West Virginia’s largest state park located in Pocahontas County, was exempted from the privatization bill.
The House passed the bill 68 to 29, with local delegates Ken Reed (R-Morgan), George Miller (R-Morgan) and Ruth Rowan (R-Hampshire) voting against it.
Trump did not respond to citizen pleas to vote against the bill.
The Cacapon State Park Foundation came out strongly opposed to the bill and has tried to convince Trump over the past week to vote against the bill – to no avail.
Trump is listed on the Foundation’s website as a “lifetime associate member.”
“In addition to changing forever the legacy of our beautiful parks, privatization greatly increases the prices the public pays for golf, lodge rooms, cabins and other recreational facilities,” the Foundation said in opposition to the bill. “It could spell the end of state operations at Cacapon State Park.”
The privatization bill was pushed by Governor Jim Justice and his tourism chief Chelsea Ruby, the wife of Governor’s Justice’s lawyer Steve Ruby, a corporate criminal defense lawyer at Carey Douglas Kessler & Ruby in Charleston.
A privately run 150 spot RV park is already in the works for Cacapon State Park.
Cacapon State Park Foundation officials are concerned that the new law will give the keys of the park to a private corporation.
The company that comes in to run the RV Park can say to the state – hey, we can run the whole park for a lot cheaper than you can by paying all of those state employees. And the park becomes a profit making entity.
Ken Caplinger, who headed the West Virginia State Parks system for years, was publicly opposed to the privatization bill.
Caplinger told Morgan County USA that it was just inconceivable that the legislature would turn the keys over to private corporations after spending millions in tax dollars upgrading the facilities at the parks, including a $25 million upgrade at the Cacapon State Park lodge.
“If a private concern took over an RV campground, for example, this bill would make it much easier to turn over the whole park to private companies,” Caplinger said.
Caplinger praised an amendment that made it into the final bill that requires the state to conduct a local public hearing before initiating a parks contract.