How persistence, teamwork, a little luck and politics paid off
Sometimes the pieces just fall into place – with a little help from your friends. The bill to fund the expansion at Cacapon State Park was signed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin Monday, April 2.
Morgan County Commission President Stacy Dugan said Governor Tomblin promised to visit the park at a later date.
For the past several years, and past several Morgan County Commissions, the commissioners have had the expansion project for Cacapon State Park high on their legislative wish list.
Although each commission and commission president lobbied the legislature and governor to fund the expansion, it didn’t happen until the three Eastern Panhandle counties teamed up, found a champion for the project and had a little luck with politics along the way.
“No one person was responsible for this,” Dugan said about the passage of the bill to fund the park expansion, “We all worked together.”
The bill provides $23.5 million to Cacapon State Park for a 79 room addition to the lodge, a swimming pool and spa, a new restaurant, golf course improvements and additional water and sewer infrastructure to support the lodge expansion.
Working to make it happen
“In late 2010 I made it one of my priorities to fight for the expansion project at Cacapon State Park,” Dugan said.
At a conference in Charleston in early 2011, Dugan and County Administrator Jody McClintock talked to state Senators John Unger of Berkeley County and Herb Snyder of Jefferson County about pushing the project.
Later in August, Dugan took Jim Michael and Joe Michael of the Cacapon State Park Foundation to Charleston and met with Governor Tomblin.
In November, Dugan attended the Tri-County Legislative Conference and talked to representatives of the Berkeley County Council and Jefferson County Commission about signing a resolution in support of the park expansion.
Then in December, Dugan met with both Berkeley and Jefferson County commissioners and obtained signed resolutions in support of the park expansion.
At the start of the New Year and new state legislature in early January 2012, Dugan, Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson, Jim Michael and Joe Michael drove to Charleston to meet with the legislature’s subcommittee on Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources.
“This is your park and we want you to invest in your park,” the group told subcommittee members.
Luck and politics
As luck would have it, Senator Unger was already a member and Senator Snyder had just been appointed to the subcommittee.
In the hallway after the meeting, Snyder told Dugan, “I have been looking for a project to fight for this year. Thanks for giving me one.”
“When Herb came on board, that’s when everything began to move,” Dugan said.
Snyder mentioned several reasons why he supported the project at a Region 9 Council meeting recently in Morgan County.
He had received the resolutions from the three county governments expressing support for the expansion project. The project has been shovel-ready for the past several years, he said.
“It should have been funded previously. It has been high on the list, but in the last bond issue, Canaan Valley got a lot of that money,” Snyder said.
He was in the process of drafting a bill for the project, when walking into the Governor’s State of the State Address, Delegate Don Perdue of Wayne County met him in the aisle and asked if he could add Beech Fork State Park to the bill.
Perdue said he needed about $28 million. “That was the only conversation I had with Delegate Perdue,” Snyder said.
“I went back to my room that night and Googled Beach Fork. I didn’t even know where Beach Fork was,” Snyder said.
Again, as luck and politics would have it, Wayne County, where Beach Fork State Park is located, is also Speaker of the House Richard Thompson’s county.
“It didn’t take me long to put 2 and 2 together,” Snyder said. “Adding Beach Fork definitely made it politically palatable.”
Snyder said the race track and gambling operations in Charles Town generate $176 million a year in revenue to the state.
“I am not bashful in asking for some of that money back,” he said.
In conclusion, Snyder said, “It is our Eastern Panhandle Park. Morgan County is in my heart and I will always serve you.”
More lobbying and passage
In February, Commissioners Dugan, Hutchinson and Brad Close attended a conference in Charleston. They met with Senators Snyder and Unger, Speaker Thompson and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Roman Prezioso of Marion County.
Dugan also talked to Wayne County commissioners about supporting the bill.
“We spent many days in Charleston talking to people about the park,” Dugan said.
On February 27, Dugan got a text message from Senator Snyder informing her that the bill had made it out of the Senate Finance Committee to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
The bill to fund the expansions of Cacapon and Beach Fork State Parks was finally passed by both houses on March 9.
“The whole Eastern Panhandle worked as a team to make this happen,” Dugan said.
“Every resident of this county can tell you a story about going to Cacapon State Park for outings, reunions, learning to swim, hiking, and so forth. This is our local park, enjoyed by both residents and tourists.” she said.