Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Kanawha State Forest Pool Building Will Be New Park Headquarters

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Kanawha State Forest Pool Building Will Be New Park Headquarters

Article excerpt

When the swimming pool at Kanawha State Forest was closed last June as part of the state parks system's response to mandatory budget cuts, Superintendent Kevin Dials was left not only with an empty pool to deal with, but also a purposeless 3,900-square-foot building that housed the pool's changing rooms, rest rooms and snack bar as well. But thanks to Dials' imagination and a hard-working maintenance crew, the empty building is being transformed into a new park headquarters and visitor center, while the pool could eventually become the site of a new amphitheater.

"I wasn't keen on having to close the pool, Dials said, as he watched members of his maintenance crew hard at work converting the women's changing room in the former swimming pool building into a roomy reception area for a new Kanawha State Forest headquarters building. "But sometimes things like that are necessary.

The pool, which drew 1,000 or more swimmers to its cooling waters on hot summer weekend days during its glory years in the mid-1960s, was attracting fewer than 200 swimmers a day under similar conditions in recent years, Dials said, resulting in annual operating losses of $30,000 or more.

Under-performing pools in need of repairs also were closed at three other state parks and forests. While Kanawha State Forest's pool may have had to go, "I didn't want this building to go to waste, he said.

In addition to providing much roomier office space for Dials and an assistant superintendent, a position that temporarily is vacant, the new headquarters building will contain an array of museum exhibits encircling its reception area, giving an overview of Kanawha State Forest's history.

The 9,300-acre tract along the headwaters of Davis Creek that makes up the forest was the site of six underground coal mines and several timbering operations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries before it was bought by the state in 1937. It was used as a camp for the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1938 to 1942, during which CCC workers removed abandoned mining structures and built many of KSF's picnic shelters as well as the dam and pond near its main entrance.

Dials said that in addition to making use of historic photos and documents, he envisions exhibits featuring artifacts from KSF's mining and logging era, including the rail line that once carried timber and coal out of the forest, along with geological specimens and displays covering the flora and fauna of the 9,300-acre preserve.

The reception lobby also will provide information on other West Virginia state parks and state forests. With 10 percent of the state's population living in Kanawha County, accounting for most of the 250,000 visits made to the forest annually, "we can be a gateway to the rest of the state park system, Dials said.

A section of the swimming pool building that previously contained a snack bar was converted into a nature center several years ago, and primarily is used as a meeting place for Kanawha State Forest Foundation-sponsored nature hikes and events hosted by the state forest's naturalist. …

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