Pocahontas Commission considers ATVs on National Forest roads

Marlinton, W.Va. – During Thursday’s Pocahontas County Commission meeting, Doug Cooper, with the West Virginia Open Trails Association, requests commission support for allowing ATV use on National Forest Service roads.

“My first proposal is that the Forest Service roads be opened as soon as possible to ATV access for senior citizens and disabled veterans,” he said. “We’re asking that existing Forest Service roads, that are open to timber trucks – anything with a license on it can run that road – but you can’t take an ATV on a Forest Service road.”

Marlinton District Ranger Rondi Fischer says funding is an issue.

“Well, we do have to do an environmental analysis, and that does cost money because it takes staff time and effort to do it,” she said. “You know, we include public outreach and scoping. Law enforcement is a concern. Part of the problem is signage. You know, we’d have to do signage. We’d have to make sure that gates are up where people shouldn’t be riding an ATVs, because we have a lot of old woods roads that, maybe, people would not necessarily know if it is a system road or not.”

Fischer says Forest Supervisor Clyde Thompson wants to see more consensus.

“He would like to see the organization build more consensus among all the stakeholders,” she said. “They also need to outreach to other organizations that have other interests, such as the Sierra Club and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy; I would say, the DNR, the Ruffed Grouse Society, the Turkey Federation – because they all have an interest in stake.”

Commissioner Martin Saffer says human activity must be balanced with the well-being of the forest.

“You’re going to reach a dividing point, at one point, at which the use of the forest is going to start impacting adversely on the life and character of the forest – and it’s going to change,” he said. “You’re wanting to ride that narrow line.”

Commissioner David Fleming comments on a draft resolution from the Open Trails group.

“One thing that concerns me is that it doesn’t, by its text, include other stakeholders,” he said. “It says, ‘be it resolved that the West Virginia Open Trails Association and the National Forest Service work together to achieve the goal.’ If I were the Sierra Club or the Highlands Conservancy, I would be offended that I’m not allowed in here. I think the draft should read, something to the effect – and all stakeholders be included.”

Commissioner Jamie Walker gives his opinion.

“I think it’s a good idea, myself,” he said. “I don’t have any problem with it. I mean, to me, I think it’s clear what they’re expecting at this point.”

The commission will reconsider a redraft of the resolution during its November 20 meeting.

911 mapping and addressing contractor Doug McKenzie updated the commission on his progress.

Commissioner David Fleming reads a portion of McKenzie’s written report.

“The ad hoc database contains the phone number and billing address for every phone number in the county,” he said. “Now, we have a 911 locatable physical address for each phone number. So, when someone dials 911, we will know where they are calling from and we can respond to their emergency in the shortest amount of time.”

McKenzie said four tasks remain to be completed: converting out-of-county addresses; uploading data to GPS companies; obtaining ArcInfo software for the 911 center and training a software operator; and providing number signs for all county addresses.

The commission made the following contributions: $5,000 for the Linwood Library; $8,000 to the Pearl Buck Birthplace; $12,000 to High Rocks Academy; $8,000 to CASA and $10,000 to the Family Resource Network Heating Assistance Program.

The commission also advanced $75,000 of a disbursement scheduled for February to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital. CEO Barbara Lay reported that PMH finished the year with a profit of $38,000.

In other business, the commission:

— heard an update from Pocahontas Seniors Director John Simmons;
— heard an update from the Water Resources Task Force;
— heard an update from Don Gasper of the West Virginia Highlands Consevancy on potential stream restoration projects;
— appointed Sheila Rose to the Local Emergency Planning Committee;
— auctioned a 2004 Chevrolet Blazer for $100, and;
— approved hiring of Nancy Burks part-time and Diane Arbogast full-time in the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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