Earlier this year, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources said that it would hold a public hearing before deciding on which corporation it would chose to develop campgrounds at Cacapon State Park.
“Prior to a decision regarding the development project, the WVDNR will host a public hearing on April 18, 2023 at 5 p.m. in the Washington Fairfax Room at the Cacapon Resort State Park Lodge,” the Department said in a press release on March 22, 2023.
“The WVDNR welcomes community engagement for this development project and will work with local stakeholders to maintain Cacapon’s natural environment as currently enjoyed, while also developing campground and recreational opportunities in the park that will allow even more people to experience the beauty that is Cacapon Resort State Park,” said WV Department of Commerce Secretary James Bailey.
In fact, the state had no intention of taking public input before making a decision.
A decision would be made before the public hearing.
That’s according to a transcript of a meeting held at Cacapon State Park on January 27, 2023 to brief vendors.
Attending the meeting were West Virginia Parks chief Bradley Reed, deputy chiefs Paul Redford and Matt Yeager, Jim Christie and John Michaux of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cacapon State Park assistant superintendent Kelly Smith, Chris Tuch of Scenic LLC, the developers of the KOA campground in Great Cacapon, and Emily DeMarco and Jessica Lewis of vendor Blue Water Development.
“We will get the RFP (request for proposals) submissions, evaluate them, have the verbal presentations, and then we will select a vendor,” Reed told the gathering. “And there will be a team of folks involved in doing that.”
“Once the vendor is selected, then the contractual negotiation phase will begin, and there will be even more people involved than that,” Reed said.
“So once those elements of contract are to a point that the parties are pretty sure that this is what we want to do and approve, at that point we will have the public meeting. The successful vendor will be expected to be at the public meeting to present all these plans and their ideas and to defend. And I would anticipate that will take place at Cacapon Lodge.”
That public hearing was scheduled to take place on April 18, but was cancelled in the face of overwhelming opposition from local state legislators, the Morgan County Commission, the Morgan Messenger and growing weekly protests at the upper lake at Cacapon State Park.
Now, organizers of the opposition have put up a new sign on letter to Governor Jim Justice and other state officials at savecacapon.org which has garnered more than 300 signatures.
“We have succeeded in halting the RFP process for this development, at least for now and we are now urging the Governor to take a more responsible approach to state park development,” the organizers write.
“The process for the Request for Proposals (RFP) for development of Cacapon State Resort Park (CSRP) was inappropriate and should not be renewed,” the letter states. “The public’s views should have been sought before issuing an RFP. The RFP should not have focused on seeking proposals from private, for-profit corporations to finance, build and maintain park facilities for profit. There are alternatives that the RFP ignored, including other public-private partnerships. Once the survey is reviewed, and before any new decisions are made, the state should publish and hold a public hearing for public input on several alternatives for the park’s future. If the state issues an RFP, then an additional public hearing should be held in accordance with the law’s requirement before finalizing an agreement.”