by James Fisher
CLARKSBURG -- After a couple weeks of wrangling and meetings with other government groups, the city Park Board has decided to open and operate Buffalo Lake this year. In fact, the lake will be stocked at 10 a.m. today and will be open to the public at daylight Saturday, according to John Cooper, superintendent of parks.
"It's been hectic," Cooper said Thursday about the effort to get the lake and recreational facilities completely ready. "It's hard to say we're on schedule because of the short notice, but we are on schedule. The big advantage we have is that we've done this for 30 years, so we know what we're doing."
Thursday's announcement came as a bit of a shock to Harrison County Commission President Beth Taylor, who said she believed the groups had a verbal agreement for the county to run the facility this year.
"It's good news for the citizens of Harrison County. It's a surprise to the County Commission, however, because when the parks and recreation (members) left our courtroom Monday, we were under the impression we had an agreement," Taylor said. "If that's the case (that the Park Board will open the lake), it's a benefit to the citizens and no harm done. It's always been the main goal of the Commission, the Park Board and the Water Board, to get the lake open for the benefit of the citizens."
Earlier this year, the Park Board had decided against operating Buffalo Lake after the Clarksburg Water Board denied a request for $10,000 to help offset maintenance costs. The Water Board owns the property. Although the Park Board has been operating the facility for 30 years, this was only the second year they had requested funding from the Water Board, Cooper said.
Subsequently, commissioners approached the Water Board about operating the facility, with the provision that the Park Board would allow them use of equipment at the lake.
Clarksburg Water Board General Manager Richard Welch said Thursday that he received a letter from Cooper about the plan to open the lake. Also in the letter is a request to reconsider the Park Board's funding request, although at a lesser amount. Welch said the request will be on the agenda for Tuesday's regular Water Board meeting.
Even if the request is again denied, however, Cooper said the Park Board is committed to having the lake open this year.
"We're going to do it regardless," he said. "We may even look into requesting funds from some other sources."
Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.