Commissioners throw support to horse camp

Published 10:39 am Thursday, May 28, 2015

PEDRO — After making her case at three separate meetings, Jill Romanello has gotten the Lawrence County Commission on board to fight the proposed Buckeye Habitat Improvement Project (BHIP).

The goal of the project in the Ironton area of the Wayne National Forest is to create wildlife habitats by protecting the oak and hickory forests. This would be done through prescribed burns and logging in the section east of State Route 93 and west of State Route 141, north of Aid and south of Oak Hill, within Jackson, Gallia and Lawrence counties.

Romanello, along with Rick McCleese, operate the Elkins Creek Horse Camp, in the Wayne forest. She contends that the Buckeye project will significantly damage the horse camp and will hurt a tourism sector in the county.

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In a letter sent to Patrick Mercer of the WNF, the commissioners showed their support of Romanello’s position.

“The Horse/Hiker Trails …. will lose its attraction, scenic value, natural habitat and trail tread base with the proposed actions of this project,” the letter states. “These effects will deter recreation and tourism to our community through disrupted access opportunities of weeks to months and the ugliness of it in this time and future generations … It is our understanding that the BHIP proposed actions will continue for up 20 years with prescribed burns, chemical applications, clear cutting and thinning. We feel the horse and hiker trails need to be eliminated from this project. Why destruct invested, scenic and highly traveled trails that we are supposed to be promoting to serve the people?”

However, Tim Slone, Ironton District ranger, said that the percentage of horse trails that would be affected by the project is only 7 percent of the 49 miles of horse trails in the district.

“There are a lot of economic benefits to what we are proposing,” he said. “It’s important for us to serve our public well and we’re always looking to mitigate issues. There will be some people for it and some against it.”

The commissioners’ letter just made the Tuesday deadline for public comments.

According to Slone, forestry officials will review all comments and give the public a second opportunity to make comment at a later date.