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Big Bear Lake open to owners only

KINGWOOD — Big Bear Lake is not violating the governor’s orders related to the coronavirus, according to the local health department.

In a series of orders, Gov. Jim Justice ordered all non-essential businesses closed, told people to stay home for the most part and closed private campgrounds to new arrivals from out of state. All this is being done in an attempt to minimize the spread of the virus.

Some recent social media posts questioned the facility’s response.

“Big Bear Lake is not necessarily a campground, because people actually own the lots in Big Bear,” Preston County Health Department Director V.J. Davis said.

There is a separate public camping area that is closed, Davis said. Big Bear, located off Interstate 68 in northern Preston County, posted on its website March 19, after the governor’s declarations, that, “Only deeded owners, staff, essential service personal and emergency personal will be permitted to enter Big Bear Lake Camplands. No guests will be permitted to enter unless within the deeded owner’s vehicle.”

Big Bear also closed all the common facilities for non-essential activities, including “roads, comfort stations, territory buildings, beaches, lakes, play-grounds and administration facilities.”

People can go to “the garbage area, to the leaf dump, to a sewage dumping station and to attain water from the potable water taps that are still on.”

Privately owned lots fall under different rules than campgrounds, Davis said.

“What they are required to do is if they have someone who owns one of those lots that comes in, if they are coming from another state, they are required to quarantine for 14 days or the duration of their stay,” whichever comes first, Davis said.

Big Bear is going a step further, requiring everyone who comes onto their lots to quarantine on the lot and not mingle, Davis added.

Davis said he understands Big Bear will contact the West Virginia State Police, if people refuse to quarantine. On its website, Big Bear warns it will do this. And fewer people are coming in, Davis said he was told.

“Big Bear’s doing what they’re supposed to do,” Davis said. “The best scenario would be for people just not to come.”

Mark Schooley of Alyeska Inc., parent company of Big Bear, said Wednesday, “I recommend everybody stay at home, even though you have the right, I still recommend that people stay at home as directed by the governor. I think it’s important for people to still be able to get out and exercise and protect their property, but for as much as possible, stay home.”

“By working together and acting with a spirit of cooperation, we can continue to remain open and get through this trying time together,” the website says. “Violations and failures on the part of some to follow the directives given by the Governor of the State of West Virginia or the President of the United States can and will create problems for everyone. So please, be at your best for the safety of you, your family, your fellow property owners and the staff of Big Bear Lake.”

As of Monday evening, Preston County had six confirmed cases of COVID-19, Davis said.

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