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Beech Fork lodge another step closer to becoming a reality

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WAYNE, WV -

By JAMES E. CASTO

For the State Journal

Ten West Virginia state parks have year-round lodges and restaurants. If everything goes according to plan, that number soon will increase to 11.

Talked about since Beech Fork State Park was opened in 1979, construction of a long-proposed lodge and convention center there has cleared another hurdle and moved a big step closer to becoming a reality.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a required market and feasibility report for the project. According to House of Delegates Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, that approval came nearly a month earlier than expected, thus speeding up the project's timetable.

"Approval of the feasibility report is a major milestone in this process, and I am thrilled we are moving forward with the lodge and convention center at Beech Fork," Thompson said. Thompson praised U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., for "helping us gain the Corps' approval."

The Corps' approval of the market and feasibility report will allow the state to proceed with the submission of a necessary environmental assessment.

The approval is another victory for HubCAP, a Wayne County citizen organization that has lobbied hard for construction of the lodge. The group got involved at a point when the effort for the long-proposed lodge seemed stalled.

"We decided we wanted to promote economic growth in Wayne County through tourism," said HubCAP member Joyce Clark. "The natural fit was to jump on the Beech Fork project and try to push it along."

In 2011, group members went to the West Virginia Legislature and buttonholed state lawmakers, arguing the case for the lodge and the positive impact it would have on the local economy. "We're the naggers," Clark said at the time. "We're going to nag them until they do it."

In 2012, the group's efforts paid off when the Legislature approved a $52.5  million bond issue to finance capital improvements at Beech Fork and Cacapon Resort State Park in Morgan County. The two parks are to split the proceeds from the bond issue, which is to be paid back through lottery revenue to the tune of $3 million a year for 30 years.

At Cacapon, the bond money will go for an 80-room addition and other improvements.

At Beech Fork, the money will fund construction of a 75-room lodge with a restaurant, indoor swimming pool, meeting space and recreation facilities. A feasibility study has indicated that the lodge will pump $2 million a year into the Wayne County economy, while creating 28 jobs.

Beech Fork State Park is located on the tailwater shores of Beech Fork Lake, a flood control impoundment built by the Corps of Engineers on the Beech Fork of Twelvepole Creek. The 3,144-acre park is located 12 miles south of Huntington and just a short drive from Barboursville. It's popular with boaters, fishermen and wildlife watchers.