A contract to begin clearing more than 200 storm-toppled trees from Big Bend Golf Course could be awarded as soon as the end of this week, following action taken Wednesday by the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission.
Commission members approved issuing a disaster declaration for damage caused by a May 2 microburst that produced a 10-minute storm with heavy rain and winds estimated at up to 75 miles per hour. The declaration allows the commission to bypass a requirement that the contract be awarded only to the lowest bidder, making it possible to hire a contractor based on the ability to avoid damage to the golf course while clearing the trees in the fastest possible time.
A committee consisting of Commission members Andrew Jordon, Janet Drumheller and Dave Pope was authorized to act in the full board’s behalf in working with Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Hutchinson to set bid requirements and select a contractor.
“We owe it to the golfers who use Big Bend to get it reopened as soon as possible,” said Park Commission president Allen Tackett.
Hutchinson said he has already shown the damage to six potential bidders, and was scheduled to tour the site with three additional contractors on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m hopeful we can get a contract awarded within the next few days,” he said.
Hutchinson said depending on how quickly the selected contractor can begin working and how dry the weather turns out to be in coming weeks, it may be possible to reopen Big Bend prior to the July 4 weekend, as he predicted earlier this week.
The championship 18-hole course, located along a bend in the Coal River, near Tornado, has been closed since the May 2 microburst — a sudden windstorm produced when a column of moisture-filled air rises to the top of a thunder cloud, and then, upon cooling, suddenly plummets to the ground. The Tornado-area golf course is the biggest income generator in the county parks system.
Hutchinson told commission members that adjusters from the park system’s insurance carrier have been shown all the storm damage at Big Bend, but are still in the process of evaluating how much they plan to pay to compensate for policy-covered storm damage. The insurance company has authorized an initial $25,000 payment to help cover expenses while the course remains closed. The policy provides for up to $100,000 to be awarded for loss of business due to the storm, and offers a maximum payout of $25,000 to remove and replace fallen and uprooted trees.
While wind-felled trees account for most of the storm damage, several outbuildings, including a golf cart barn, were determined to have received damage totaling $10,000, Hutchinson said.
In other developments, Zack Brown, assistant chief of operations for the state Division of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources section, outlined improvements being planned for the public kayak and canoe launch site on the Elk River at Coonskin Park.
The boat launch currently consists of a slide rail and narrow concrete stairway for those putting paddle-borne boats into the river. A design prepared by a DNR contractor for the improved launch site includes an 8-foot-wide trail from a parking area down to a riverside gravel area, along with a map kiosk and two solar-powered lights.
The Coonskin Park launch site is one of several new or improved boater-friendly public stream access points planned by the DNR along an 18-mile stretch of the Elk between Clendenin and Mink Shoals, Brown said.
Brown said improvements are also planned for an existing boater access point in Clendenin, while an all-new access site called South Clendenin is planned to take shape about 3 miles downstream. A new boater access site will be developed adjacent to a smaller existing site under the Elk River Bridge at Blue Creek, along with a new site at Big Chimney on land donated by John and Virginia Slack.
Brown said work could begin on the projects as early as August. The Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission is expected to vote to approve the DNR boat ramp improvement plans during its June meeting.