By CHAD ABSHIRE
LENORE - A member of the West Virginia Legislature spoke at yesterday’s meeting of the Laurel Lake Wildlife Management Area Foundation, Inc.
Delegate Justin Marcum, (D-District 20), spoke to the roughly 15 people in attendance underneath a picnic shelter at the lake.
“If there’s anything the state can do, I will do anything I can. I’m here to help,” Marcum said to the crowd. “We’ve all got a vision to see this place (Laurel Lake) thrive.”
A piece of the delegate’s vision is to see a resurrection of the Lake’s campground, as well as adding a trailhead to the famous Hatfield-McCoy trails.
“They could ride to Williamson, and come back here,” Marcum said. “The next day, they could head to Matewan, then come back here. Laurel Lake could serve as a hub.”
He also said that history buffs who had recently gotten into or been enthralled for years with the Hatfield-McCoy Feud could visit local historic sights by day and then stay at the Lake’s campground at night
Another thing Marcum said that he was concerned with was visibility. He said that he had been on the phone earlier in the day yesterday with the Department of Highways, discussing tourism signs. He said that he would like to have signs placed from the highway and up from there.
“We need to get Laurel Lake self-sufficient. We need to get Laurel Lake to where it doesn’t need any donations. This could be a hub for Mingo County tourism,” Marcum said. “We’ve got to get serious about it. One family renting a shelter one month for a family reunion isn’t going to cut it.”
He spoke of the importance of community, and said that he was “thrilled at the turnout,” of people at the meeting, saying that it made his job easier with communication between local areas and Charleston.
“All of our small communities are coming together and joining forces,” Marcum said. “We can put Mingo County on the map here if we get this campground going. There’s a lot of potential here.”
There were a few reasons thrown out as to why people coming from out of town were staying out-of-county, but one reason in particular gave way to a larger discussion.
“There is nothing for people’s kids to do here without playground equipment,” a woman said. “We can’t just have a pool.”
Kevin Snodgrass, Superintendent of the Laurel Lake Wildlife Management Area, said that they were recently gifted $5,000 from CONSOL Energy, which he intended to use for new playground equipment. However, not wanting a cheap alternative, but rather high-quality equipment, he said that amount of money wasn’t enough. He also said that he has plans to take down the current playground equipment at the Lake at the end of the summer, noting that some of the wood has begun to split.
One activity that Marcum suggested to bring to Laurel Lake was ziplining, saying that people could go “ridge to ridge.” He said that it was a popular activity and would bring people in. However, that was not the number one thing Marcum said was needed.
“Speaking as a citizen and not as a legislator, I think we need a welcome center,” Marcum said. “A place where people can come and sign in, say ‘Hello,’ and then ask where they go next. We don’t have anything nearby like that besides the Coal House, but that’s in Williamson.”
However, Marcum said that he understood that there was a lot of work to be done, and that the first thing to do was to find out who owned the land nearby and then search for avenues to go down from there.
“I won’t promise the world, but I’ll help out all that I can,” Marcum said.
Snodgrass said that it would help out immensely if the Foundation could begin to provide for the Lake itself.
“My bosses will take serious notice if we get the little stuff first, like playground equipment,” Snodgrass said. “If we band together and work without them, they’ll help us out. They’ll be impressed when they get here and we tell them that the Wildlife Foundation got this equipment.
“If we can raise our own funds, the state will be more likely to help us out. The more we can show what we’ve done, the better,” Snodgrass said.
The current plan is to hand out flyers from a booth at the Town of Lenore’s Fourth of July event on June 30 to advertise for a community event within Laurel Lake on July 27. Details on that July event were sparse as of presstime.
“I have a dream for the area,” Marcum said. “It’s home. I want to make it better.”