History of the Battle for Haymaker Forest (Part Two)

The battle for Haymaker Forest is now entering its fourth year, here in the second half of summer, 2018.

On August 7, 2015, Doug Warden, representing Cheat Road Engineering, submitted a request for an estimate from MUB for water/sewer/storm service for a highly detailed proposed new subdivision.   https://newwoodburncommunityschool.files.wordpress.com/…/06…

The planned development spanned the entire breadth of Haymaker Forest.   https://newwoodburncommunityschool.files.wordpress.com/…/mu…

The plans for this proposed new development had been accidentally discovered earlier in the summer by a local resident who found an engineering map of the design on the edge of the woods.   https://newwoodburncommunityschool.files.wordpress.com/…/su…

Over the course of months, MUB drew up and released the plans to the developer. None of this was known or reported publicly except by concerned residents who filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests of MUB, the city, and elsewhere in a determined effort to find out what was going on, and who knew what.

By late spring the following year, May 2016, Mr. Warden appeared before the Morgantown City Planning Commission to request street access for the new subdivision into the city on a dangerous steep curve of Buckhannon Ave. The Planning Commission refused to approve the request in the face of dozens of residents from multiple neighborhoods who spoke out against any new subdivision’s access to Buckhannon Ave. No one other than Mr. Warden spoke for access.   https://www.facebook.com/groups/1063344577038302/permalink/1122247004481392/

Eight months earlier, three Neighborhood Associations of communities adjacent to Haymaker Forest had presented a formal position paper to City Council and County Commission opposing the proposed new development’s access at Buckhannon and calling for the “public purchase and stewardship” of as much of Haymaker Forest as possible to preserve the environment, the wildlife, the ecology, and to preserve the health, well-being, and the quality of life of the many residents in the adjacent neighborhoods and in the city and county in general.  https://newwoodburncommunityschool.org/2018/07/15/history-of-the-battle-for-haymaker-forest/

This was a big victory for the effort to save Haymaker Forest, when a wide variety of residents turned out at the city’s Planning Commission meeting causing the Commission to block the developer’s proposal by tabling it. Then in August 2016, Cheat Road Engineering withdrew its development proposal entirely from the Planning Commission agenda. Another victory. However, as the Dominion Post reported, city engineer Chris Fletcher stated his expectation that plans for a new subdivision were likely to be drawn up.   https://www.facebook.com/groups/1063344577038302/permalink/1122247004481392/

And this is exactly what happened. By February of 2017, a new development design was created by Cheat Road Engineering again across all of Haymaker Forest.   https://www.facebook.com/groups/1063344577038302/permalink/1294076123965145/

This time, street access to the redesigned development was plotted primarily via Dorsey Avenue, which is state controlled, and in the County at that juncture, with no City control, though very close to the boundary line between the City of Morgantown’s First and Second wards. The developer’s bulldozers could plow through at any moment in this large county portion of the Forest. The City could not stop anything. And roll in a bulldozer did, without any public warning, in April 2018 to clear ground for the taking of bore samples, presumably to determine road and building foundation requirements.   https://www.facebook.com/groups/1063344577038302/permalink/1818300294876056/

Fortunately, the next major victory in the battle for Haymaker Forest had culminated almost exactly one year prior to the first bulldozer grinding into the forest: Morgantown city election day in April 2017, when two of the three City Councilors representing city wards bordering Haymaker Forest, who had moved ineffectively or not at all on saving the forest, were handed two huge defeats. Councilor Redmond and Councilor Bane lost in a landslide to Mark Brazaitis and Rachel Fetty, who gathered the second highest and the highest number of votes of all the candidates. The battle for Haymaker Forest fueled that entire city election. People from many backgrounds did a lot of work, in particular Bernie Sanders supporters. And the people who had been working and turning out to help save Haymaker were as actively involved as anyone. Mark Brazaitis had made a centerpiece of his campaign the preservation of Haymaker Forest – the only way to protect the wildlife, ecology, and environment and to preserve the quality of life of the adjacent neighborhoods and of the city and county in general. He called upon any and all entities, private and public, to act to preserve this local community forest facing imminent destruction.

Many basically fruitless efforts had been made to secure funds for saving Haymaker Forest. Even a reluctant Councilor Redmond had been enlisted, and he noted the varied organizational and individual efforts being made to protect Haymaker Forest and the adjacent neighborhoods as early as October 2015, per his email response to concerned citizens of that month and year.   https://newwoodburncommunityschool.org/2018/06/12/early-history-on-the-battle-for-haymaker-forest/

Local area residents across 3 of the 7 City Wards bordering the forest, along with residents citywide and in the county, had since the summer of 2015 considered every possible funding and preservation option for Haymaker Forest that anyone could think of, and tried to pursue whatever seemed most feasible. These efforts spanned possible city, state, federal, environmental, university, and private funding sources. Further efforts and appeals were made to the County as well, to no funding effect. Plainly, multi-million dollars were needed, and no entity with the resources was willing to step up. Many were called. None answered, with anything by way of even a partial solution. (The one entity that came closest to helping was the West Virginia Land Trust, which offered some valuable ideas but had no dollars to spare.)

During one effort to secure funding, in fall of 2015, concerned residents proposed that the City Council dedicate a portion of the soon-to-be-voted-on User Fee to permanently fund both green space acquisition, such as Haymaker Forest, and ongoing BOPARC activities and infrastructure. This made some minimal progress with the City Council at that time, before being entirely dismissed. Not so much as a cent would go to green space. Much else was considered and explored from then on, with no funds ever being secured.

That’s why the City Council elections of April 2017 were such a huge victory in the long battle toward saving Haymaker Forest. Council has subsequently proven willing to consider a referendum and other funding mechanisms, which are more progressive than the User Fee, to save Haymaker Forest. The three Councilors known to be most opposed to spending city money on protecting the forest were resoundingly defeated, while the vocal proponent for preserving the forest, Mark Brazaitis, was overwhelmingly elected, as was every single one of his allies at the time, with no losses. http://thecityofmorgantown.com/…/morgantown-city-council-wi…

From the unsuccessful but strong public requests and proposals to City Council (and other public agencies) to buy and protect the Haymaker Forest for the public in the fall of 2015, to the great public turnout at the city’s Planning Commission meeting in May of 2016 that successfully blocked temporarily the proposed new development, to the sweeping success of the April 2017 City Council elections that removed the 3 councilors most opposed to any forest purchase and brought in at least several strong advocates for its purchase, to the remarkable summer of 2018 City Council plans and proposals for a green space acquisition referendum and City purchase of the forest for the public, to the ongoing negotiations between the City and the current forest owners to save the community forest for the public once and for all, the battle for Haymaker Forest has proven to be the proverbial long and winding road.

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