Nature park discussed at County Commission meeting

GRAFTON—The Taylor County Commission met Tuesday evening, to discuss multiple issues, among those was the possibility of a nature park/walking area.

According to Phil Kelley, who has been working to get a river park created, several groups are teaming up to make the park dream come true.

“We are working in conjunction with the Save the Tygart Watershed, the City of Grafton, a group from West Virginia University and All Aboard Grafton, to try to get this thing going,” shared Kelley.

Kelley said, they were proposing that the park would be located on Grand Street, and would run along the river up to the Calvary Apostolic Fellowship Church, in Parkview.

“What we are proposing, is that you would consider leasing that property to the Save the Tygart Watershed group, so that we could make a nature park started up,” explained Kelley.

Kelley said, they’ve talked to the pastor of the church, and he said he is willing to allow people to enter and exit the proposed park from their property.

The groups said the park would boast picnic tables and benches in the area, for people to enjoy the scenery. He said he thinks it would be a nice spot for people to be able to watch the Adventure Club’s kayaks going down the river.

“What we’d like to have is a nature walk and bike trail,” said Kelley. “The area would be closed from dusk to dawn, and we would prohibit the use of motorized vehicles, so that the area could stay as natural as possible.”

Commission President Orville Wright, raised questions concerning what land was actually owned by the commission, as well as, who would be responsible for policing the area and making sure those who were using the park were safe.

According to Commissioner Rusty Efaw, CSX Railroad had sold them surface rights to the land they had previously housed rail lines on, but there were issues surrounding exactly what land was sold.

“What happened was, when property owners gave up the land to put the railroad through there, there were no deeds drawn up,” explained Efaw. “There were stipulations, that if the railroad didn’t go in, or was no longer being used, that land would go back to the property owners.”

He went on to explain that the only land they knew they owned, was where their sewer line had been installed, along the old rail line.

“We’ve had surveyors come out and they can not tell us, without any doubt, exactly what land is ours,” said Efaw.

According to Wright, as of yet, no deeds for the land have been provided to Taylor County Prosecuting Attorney John Bord.

“This issue has been brought up to us a couple of times, but until John gives us the approval, I personally am not willing to commit to the project,” expressed Wright.

Commissioner Tony Veltri, echoed Wright’s thoughts by saying, “We all believe this is essentially a good idea, but I agree, that until we get some legal advice, we just can’t make any decisions or do anything.”

Also, during the meeting, the Taylor County Commission voted to allow up to $16,000 toward the purchase of new ballistic vests, carries, body cameras and equipment for the Taylor County Sheriff’s Department.

According to Sheriff Terry Austin, the cost per vest would be $745, through Gall’s.

“The original cost of the vests is $1054, but under the West Virginia State Police contract, we can get them for less,” he explained. “The cost for the carriers can run up to $186.99, per unit. These are category three vests, that would protect the officers from handgun rounds.”

According to Austin, the cameras he will be ordering for his officers are the ones used in Preston County. He added, there is an additional $1700 subscription that would have to be renewed yearly, for a system, which stores and tracks any attempts to change the videos.

“The information can be stored on the system and then could be uploaded to other areas, in the event anything would come into question,” explained Austin. “This system will show any attempts to alter the videos, if someone tried to for any reason.”

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