Local comments on Canaan Valley Institute property sale compiled

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PARSONS – Public comments regarding the potential sale of the Canaan Valley Institute property were received, compiled and forwarded on to those responsible for making decisions about who will have the right to purchase the property.

Canaan Valley InstituteIn November, the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the National Youth Science Foundation each expressed their interest in obtaining the property for their use, and in December, Tucker County Commission members sponsored a public forum in Davis, giving local folks the opportunity to learn more about the potential sale, to ask questions of each group and to share their own opinions on the issue. Everyone was encouraged to submit written comments on the subject which the Tucker County Commission gathered and forwarded to local and state officials, and all parties concerned with decisions on the sale.

Tucker County Commissioner Diane Hinkle said approximately 70 comments were submitted by local residents. In a written response to those making comments, Hinkle thanked those participating and told them their letters were read and scanned and forwarded to Edward Horton, Chief Administrative Officer for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

“I read each and every one of your comments,” Hinkle’s letter stated. “They lend unwavering support for keeping the Visitors Center at its present location in Canaan Valley. The business community, residents and visitors to the county acknowledge the value of the Friends of the 500th and the core group of volunteers that man the Visitors Center and have successfully created and sustained a hub of activity that includes a book store, educational programs, trail maintenance and information, and a long list of other essential tasks. A few who wrote comments were not necessarily opposed to the administrative offices of CV NWR moving to the CVI property – but questioned the benefit of such a move.”

“Among those writing letters in support of the National Youth Science Proposal were Senator Joe Manchin, Tucker County Commission, Tucker County Planning Commission, Tucker County Development Authority, Chamber of Commerce (representing 60 businesses) and many individuals who stressed the economic and educational benefit to the county. The Davis Town Council submitted a Resolution underscoring the desire of the residents of the Town of Davis to “retain the CVI facilities and property for use of CVI in conjunction with the existing and planned National Youth Science Foundation program”.

“A letter from Tucker County Trails and others, call attention to the importance of having continued trail access for biking, skiing, hiking, dog walking and hunting. A letter from the State Superintendent of Schools recommends the CVI facilities be the “key hub for STEM education in West Virginia” and that NYSF be allowed to make full use of the facility. The WV Division of Highways submitted a letter in support of keeping the USFWS District Office in Elkins.”

Hinkle’s letter also said the last letter she read was a very balanced and thoughtful letter written by an environmental educator and Canaan Valley resident who, in addition to being very knowledgeable about the current facility housing CV NWR, referenced the mission of USFWS to advocate for CV NWR focusing less on “managing buildings and more on educational programs by partnering with NYSF”.

Hinkle added that she and the Tucker County Commission will continue to follow up with our state and federal officials, Mr. Horton and Ron Hollis, Refuge Manager.

Hinkle said she received a call from Lance West from Senator Manchin’s office last week.

“West indicated the Senator had a good conversation with NOAA officials today,” Hinkle said. “NOAA acknowledges the overwhelming community support for NYSF / STEM education / and maintaining the Visitors Center in its current location in Canaan Valley. The USFWS will make their recommendation to NOAA (anticipated to happen within 30 days), and NOAA will then act on that recommendation. “

Hinkle said West indicated Manchin will continue to monitor the situation and advocate for the citizens of Tucker County, and said the Commission will be notified of any updates

Commission President Lowell Moore said he is hopeful NOAA official will make their decision soon.

“Negotiations are still on-going between Senator Manchin’s office and several other state officials regarding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and NOAA. No decision has been made as of yet. Until a decision has been made, there is still hope for some compromise.”

During the public forum in Davis, Horton said public comments would be considered. He said U.S. Fish and Wildlife representatives need to have their deliberations and decide whether they are still interested in the CVI building.

“It depends on Fish and Wildlife as to when a decision will be made,” Horton said. “The public comment period ended on the 19th of Dec. and we could have an answer by Feb. 1. I think it will take less than 60 days.”