PARKERSBURG - Mountwood Park board members Monday voted to renegotiate a lease for a 1,020-acre property used for hunting, horseback riding and other recreational activities.
David Hill, who represents the landowner of the O'Brien property, addressed the board Monday on behalf of the landowner, who is concerned the lease agreement is not being met, Hill said.
The lease is between Mountwood Park and the O'Brien estate, but several responsibilities in the lease have not been fulfilled by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Hill said.
While the DNR did not sign the O'Brien lease, it did sign a sublease with Mountwood Park agreeing to patrol the O'Brien property during hunting season and enforce hunting regulations. A verbal agreement was made between the park and the DNR in which the DNR agreed to put up gates to block access points and clearly mark the boundaries of the O'Brien property, said board president Bobby Akers.
Hill said he inspected the property six weeks ago and discovered five or six access points with no gates and there were unclear boundary lines and evidence of ATV traffic.
"This is one of the best partnerships we've had," Hill said. "The horse club has done many great things for this property, and the landowner is very appreciative, but there are some problems with the lease not being honored. Our relationship with the park is very strong, but the DNR has failed to uphold its part in the lease."
"I can go two ways. I can cancel the lease altogether, and I really don't want to do that. Or I've been directed by my clients to rewrite the lease to leave the DNR completely out of it," he said.
Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch said he did not see a problem with rewriting the lease because the DNR did not sign it. He said the park is at fault for not pursuing the DNR to put up gates and mark boundary lines.
Board member Jean Ambrose said even though the DNR did not sign the lease, it still needed to be rewritten to reflect what responsibilities the park will be expected to uphold, if the DNR were written out of the lease.
The board passed a motion to renegotiate the O'Brien lease with Hill.
A motion was made to invite a DNR representative to the Mountwood Park board meeting to discuss the problems with the sublease and determine whether the park will terminate the sublease with DNR.
The board was called into executive (closed) session by board member Jack Mathers around 9 p.m. and returned 20 minutes later. Akers would not comment on the reason for the session.
In other park business, a motion was passed to accept the suggestions of the financial committee in regard to trimming the budget.
"The park has traditionally relied on donations, but these numbers are shrinking," said Sean Francisco, Wood County assistant prosecutor. "We are not even six months into the budget and we are already over budget in several areas."
The financial committee suggested the park eliminate special events that did not bring in revenue, switch to electronic documents rather than paper copies to save on office supplies, and ask the board for approval on expenditures that are not on the budget.
Special events not sponsored by the park, such as the Woof-Fest, ice cream social and Dashing Through the Snow, could still be held at Mountwood Park, but would have to be sponsored and funded by another party, Francisco said.