CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County parks officials will ask the state Division of Natural Resources and Division of Highways to help build a boat launch across the Elk River from Coonskin Park."It's a wonderful idea," Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson told members of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday.Jim Haught, editor of The Charleston Gazette, pitched the idea to members of the county parks board after a recent river trip near Coonskin Park. Haught said boat access is poor near the park, and said he had talked to several people about how hard it is to get boats in and out of the water in the area.A concrete boat slide exists at Coonskin Park, but the parking lot that accesses the slide is very small, and the park is locked at night.
"If we close that at dusk, if someone's out on the river they can't get out," Hutchinson said.Haught suggested a dedicated boat launch with a pier and a large parking area would be better than folks trying to drag their boats up the steep riverbank. "You might get 1,000 boats in a summer," Haught said.Parks officials agreed that it's a good idea, but don't have the money themselves to build a boat launch.But Hutchinson thinks he has a solution to the problem.Within the next year or so, the West Virginia National Guard will be closing the road that leads to Coonskin Park for security reasons. The closure will mean creating a new entrance to the park from U.S. 119 across the Kanawha River.State officials will have to take some of Coonskin's property to build a new bridge to the park, and will have to take property on the other side of the river. In exchange for the property, Hutchinson said state officials will have to build some kind of recreational use into the surrounding area.A boat launch could be just the ticket, Hutchinson said. He said a parking lot and boat launch could be built across the Kanawha River near the bridge.Members of the parks board directed Hutchinson to write county and state officials and let them know parks officials would like a boat launch built along the river.Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org