Man accused of illegal logging at Coonskin turns himself in

The man accused of illegally logging large sections of Coonskin Park has turned himself in to Kanawha County authorities -– almost one year to the day after he was first approved to perform work at the park.

An employee in Kanawha County Magistrate Court said David Bowen, 50, of Charleston, turned himself in at the Kanawha County Courthouse Wednesday.

Bowen posted a $25,000 property bond, and his preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. June 2.

Last week, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office charged Bowen with three felonies: wrongful injury to timber; removal, injury to, or destruction of property; and fraud. An arrest warrant was also issued for Bowen.

Each felony for which Bowen is accused carry possible fines and jail time.

According to a criminal complaint in Kanawha Magistrate Court on May 8, Bowen, through his company Russell Trucking, allegedly removed 360 trees from Coonskin and constructed logging roads in the park.

He also removed 91 previously cut trees from the 2012 derecho and cut and removed 31 standing trees. Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson authorized the removal of those trees.

The logging took place between May and July 2013.

The complaint states Bowen then sold the trees to three different purchasers: Calhoun Logging in Malden, West Virginia Manufacturing in Alloy and Taylor Lumber in McDermott, Ohio.

He made a combined $143,788.61 from all three purchasers.

A survey by Gillispie Forestry Services for the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission found an additional 77 trees that were damaged but not removed and 451 “growing stock” trees that sustained damage.

The value of the damaged trees combined with damage to topsoil and tree growth loss is estimated to be a combined $17,322.

Besides the criminal charges, Bowen is also being sued by the parks commission in Kanawha Circuit Court over the logging incident.

Exactly one year ago Thursday, on May 15, 2013, the parks commission voted to allow an unnamed contractor – later identified as Russell Trucking – to remove leftover debris from the 2012 derecho for free, providing the company could keep the debris and a few additional trees to be identified by Hutchinson. The work was to be performed as a donation to the park in order for the contractor to claim a tax write-off.

There was no written contract and the trees designated for cutting weren’t marked.

In June, as the work was being completed, a concerned park visitor, Margaret Zaleski, raised concerns that Russell Trucking did more than remove debris — it cut down healthy trees, too. The heavy equipment also tore up part of the loop road through the shelter area and created paths similar to logging roads through the forest.

It was later discovered the state business license for Russell Trucking was revoked in late 2012 and the company owed more than $100,000 in taxes.

Kanawha County commissioners began their own investigation in July, and Commission President Kent Carper said his office found that some of the lumber was sold to a sawmill for $66,000.

In August, the sheriff’s department began a criminal investigation, which led to Thursday’s charges.

The state Division of Forestry also conducted a stump survey that month, which initially showed 330 trees were cut.

In the meantime, Bowen has been ordered to conduct remediation work, including re-seeding damaged areas and repairing roads damaged by the company’s trucks. Some rough paving around the shelter loop and in the lodge parking was completed.

Kanawha Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Brian Humphreys, who has been leading the investigation, said last year he felt confident that no park employees benefited from the timbering.

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