Editorials, Opinion

Cheat Lake State Park?

Amid all the drama surrounding Lake Lynn Generation and Cheat Lake Park, there is a ray of hope: a resolution introduced in the Legislature to consider making Cheat Lake a state park.

A quick refresher: Lake Lynn Generation owns and operates the Cheat Lake hydroelectric dam and the recreational-use land surrounding Cheat Lake. Lake Lynn Generation has requested to remove about 307 acres from federal protection. The community is concerned that doing so would open the land to private development, destroying the existing recreation and access to the lake. On top of that, community members claim Lake Lynn Generation has failed to maintain Cheat Lake Park.

Back to the present: HCR 43 requests “the Joint Committee on Government and Finance study the potential of Cheat Lake as a state park and the potential economic and social impacts if this area is turned into a park or left for future development.”

We think making Cheat Lake a state park is the best possible solution. Cheat Lake is a popular tourist destination, especially in the summer, and operates as a connector between Morgantown and Coopers Rock (another popular destination). Our state park service does a fantastic job maintaining its lands and facilities, so the community wouldn’t need to be concerned about the upkeep of recreational spaces. Plus, the state tourism and parks bureaus will likely have good ideas for attracting even more visitors to the area.

One thing to keep in mind:  Mont Chateau — West Virginia’s forgotten state park that bordered Cheat Lake. When it was a privately owned resort, Mont Chateau thrived for over 60 years — until a fire burned down the hotel. In an attempt to save the tourist attraction, the state purchased the sprawling property, turned it into a state park and built a new lodge. Unfortunately, vaguely cited “management problems” killed the new chateau. The W.Va. Geological and Economic Survey eventually moved into the old lodge and still sits along the lake. Most of the remaining property was sold for private development.

We think a Cheat Lake State Park would prosper, especially since it is an already popular destination with existing infrastructure and facilities. That said, any study should look at the failed Mont Chateau and learn from its mistakes.