The Kanawha State Forest

The Kanawha State Forest / photo by Brian Humphreys

From the Governor’s office:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (December 3, 2015) – Gov. Tomblin today announced a Kanawha County family has donated more than 100 acres, including two industrial buildings, to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources for future development of the Forks of Coal State Natural Area, a new natural area featuring a youth environmental education center and a variety of nature exhibits and programs.

The donated property is adjacent to the Coal River and can be accessed from Corridor G a few miles south of the Southridge retail complex.

“This beautiful property is an incredibly generous donation by the Workman family,” Gov. Tomblin said. “This donation will give people across West Virginia the opportunity to explore our state’s natural beauty, and I’m confident this great addition will benefit our state’s growing tourism industry now and for years to come.”

Jack Workman made the donation this week. Under terms of the gift, the DNR will establish the Claudia L. Workman Environmental Education Visitors Center and develop programs and exhibits geared toward educating children about nature and the environment. The center is named in memory of Workman’s late wife.

“Our dream has always been to keep the property in its natural state, and to serve as a learning tool for children to teach them stewardship of the land and how to use the natural resources,” Jack Workman said. “Just the history of the lock system to make the river accessible to barge transportation for the coal industry is a piece of history worth keeping alive. We spent many hours walking the property and taking others on tours. By placing the property with the DNR, we are now assured our dream will be realized for generations to come.”

The Division of Natural Resources began taking initial steps to prepare the property for public access this week.

“The DNR is developing interpretative signage and guides for the Natural Area describing the flora, fauna, and natural and historical features of the area, including its unique historical association with the Coal River Lock System,” DNR Director Bob Fala said. “We are extremely grateful to the Workman family for their generosity.  We believe this property is a tremendous outdoor recreation and learning facility for the Kanawha Valley, and we look forward to opening it to the public.”

The DNR anticipates opening the Forks of Coal State Natural Area to the public in the spring.  As outlined by the donation agreement, the area will include the Claudia L. Workman Environmental Education Center, a live animal exhibit, a trail system with interpretive signage, and a number of other educational opportunities. There will be restrictions against hunting, trapping and harvesting plants, but walk-in fishing will be permitted. One of the two existing buildings on the property will soon be utilized for the DNR’s District Five Law Enforcement and Wildlife Resources’ offices.

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