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A large crowd turned out for a family-friendly rally Sunday in support of Coonskin Park.
The rally included music, lawn games and entertainment and was one of the largest shows of resistance so far to West Virginia International Yeager Airport’s proposal to extend its runway and parallel taxiway.
If approved, the plan would require using hundreds of acres of Coonskin Park as a valley fill area for a runway expansion.
“Save Coonskin Park” organizer Jeremy Severn lives next door to the park where he can see the runway mountainside from his window.
“I mean you can see from the end of the proposed destruction over there, of the mountain top removal, you can see that mountain range from my house,” Severn said. “I’m not interested in looking out my window and seeing a strip mine.”
Severn helped collect more than 11,000 signatures for a petition that was recently submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The agency is considering alternative ideas to extend the runway and recently pledged $2 million to Yeager Airport to start the third phase of its Environmental Impact Study (EIS).
Other speakers included John Martin, son of Alice Knight, the artist, naturalist and wildlife photographer who has a trail named in her memory following her death in 2008.
He questioned the reasoning behind the runway expansion.
“I think that, from what I’ve researched, the reasoning behind it is fairly petty, to prevent a layover for certain people, to make this an international airport so people don’t have to fly into, say, Pittsburgh, and take another flight into Charleston,” Martin said.
Martin said he believes there are much better uses for money in West Virginia than an airport extension.
“For me to destroy this park, the historical sites here, the grave sites here, it’s petty,” he said. “I also believe that $400 million could go a very long way in this state to some of the other issues that we have. For example addiction, we have some of the highest overdose rates in the country, extreme poverty, some children – the only meal they have is the school meal provided each day.”