W.V. National Guard Facility Seeks to Boost Security of Perimeter

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ The West Virginia National Guard would like to relocate the only entrance to a popular Kanawha County park to improve security at its Charleston facilities.

Visitors to Coonskin Park now drive through a residential area and past the Guard's main headquarters and facilities for the Guard's Army and Air units to enter the park. The Guard would like to relocate the park's entrance by building a bridge over the Elk River, several miles away.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, security at the facilities has increased. Relocating the park's entrance would enhance security and give the Guard room to expand.

``It's my understanding that this is a serious proposal, not a gosh-wouldn't-it-be-nice idea,'' said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper.

Guard spokesman Maj. Mike Cadle confirmed the Guard's plans.

A June draft report from the state Division of Highways Planning and Research Division lists eight options for alternative access to the park. The Guard favors one that calls for building a 300-foot-long bridge connecting U.S. 119 north of Exit 1 on Interstate 79 to the park. The recommendation, which is the least expensive, would cost about $3 million.

About 800 feet of roadway also would be built. Three homes would have to be bought and the plan could affect the park's service center and gas tanks.

Cadle said the Guard already bought one house in the area, but it is closer to the base.