By Doug Wood
Many of our state parks and one state natural area have trails that pass through magnificent mature forests that attract hikers. An economic study and a market research study conducted by WV Parks found that hiking is the number one gateway activity introducing visitors to WV’s state park system (www.wonderfulwv.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/Archive/Sep2016.pdf ).
Do you think state park guests will flock to our parks in expectation of hiking through forests marred by timbering? This fact alone should be enough to make us all realize how important it is to continue to uphold the public’s trust in our state agencies to “preserve and protect” our state park forests. Yet, Division of Forestry Director Barry Cook is misinforming the public and the legislature through television and radio interviews and meetings with legislators that excluded state park administrators by stating “A good friend of mine is an Ohio State forester. They allow logging in all their state parks. Hocking State Park [he meant Hocking Hills State Park] is their jewel. They started harvesting timber on that park in 2006 and their overnight occupancy went up almost ten-fold.”[ Jan. 24 interview https://twitter.com/WVMetroNews/status/956186871410827264]
I and others contacted the Hocking Hills State Park officer in charge and found that there was no logging allowed on the Park and that there had been no logging there in the past, since it had been designated a Park. We met with Director Cook on the morning of Jan. 25. When he mentioned the logging at Hocking Hills State Park again, we told him that the park officer denied it. Director Cook exclaimed that he had a letter to prove it, but he didn’t show it to us, nor has he provided it to us yet. We asked if maybe he misunderstood his friend and that his friend was really talking about logging in Hocking Hills State Forest surrounding the park. He adamantly stated that both the forest and the park were logged. We shared the park officer’s name and phone number with Director Cook and suggested he call.
We followed up with a call up the chain in the Ohio State Park administration and found that there is no commercial logging going on now in the state park system. That night, Dir. Cook was interviewed again and he repeated his earlier claim: [Jan. 25 interview http://wvpublic.org/post/debates-continue-over-controversial-logging-bill ] “I have a good friend who is a state forester in the state of Ohio. Ohio practices forestry on their state forests as we do in WV, but they also practice forestry on their state parks.”
Dir, Cook is on shaky ground with this claim. We encourage your readers to listen to the interviews, then contact Hocking Hills State Park (740-385-6842), tell the office staff that you heard logging was taking place in that park and all other Ohio state parks, and make it clear to them that your source was WVDOF Director Barry Cook. Just what our tourism industry needs right now: negative interstate press from lies spread by the state agent who wants to degrade our visitors’ state Park experiences by building logging roads, running chainsaws, and cutting magnificent forest giants.