richwood — The reason for the naming of Richwood is evident if you simply drive through the once-booming city.
Log trucks roll their way down Main Street, making their way to or from the city’s two remaining lumber mills.
In a city ravaged by West Virginia’s economic downturn over the last 30 or 40 years, and more recently by the 2016 floodwaters, the only thing more common than for sale signs in the Main Street shop windows are posters cheering on their Lumberjacks, Richwood High’s mascot.
For two locals, word on the possible opening of new timberland in state parks to cutting through West Virginia Senate Bill 270 is cautiously welcomed.
David Skaggs, owner of Dave’s Hardware on Oakford Avenue, thinks fresh timbering may bring some life back into Richwood.
While Skaggs’ store was spared the floodwaters, he has still felt the impact of the flood that has brought the once-booming city to its knees.
“If we don’t do something, both these (lumber mills) will be gone,” Skaggs said looking out of the window of his shop.
While Skaggs is open to cutting timber on state park land, he believes that it must be done responsibly.
As it is written, SB 270 allows the director to implement a silvicultural management plan for state parks. The director may select and sell timber located on state park lands only as part of a sound silvicultural plan.
Under the bill, any timber harvesting shall not exceed the average of four trees per acre per tract and not more than half of the merchantable timber volume of the acre. Only trees with a circumference of at least 16 inches based on the diameter at breast height may be harvested.
“I used to work for the Forest Service and I’ve seen both sides of it,” Skaggs said of clear-cutting and selective harvesting. “What I like more than anything is selective cutting. I don’t think clear cutting is the correct answer, but selective cutting leaves some growth for the future.”
Skaggs believes that if the correct company is chosen to timber the land, and if the codes and laws are followed, that cutting could help Richwood and the state as a whole.
“If it’s someone reputable that’s not going to tear up the property, I say it’s no big problem,” the store owner said. “It does keep the industry working. If you close it off totally, then you lose a lot of industry I think and a lot of jobs.”
The hardware store owner also believes that cutting can enhance the environment — again, if done correctly.
“I don’t think they should close any place to logging,” he said. “The reason why is, after you get a canopy effect, where below a certain part, everything dies to the ground so you have no new growth.”
That view is also shared by Jeromy Rose.
Rose said that when he was growing up in Richwood, the city was known as a place where hunters would come for deer season.
The former mayor of Richwood said that with so many hardwood forests, the undergrowth that feeds deer has disappeared.
“As an outdoorsman, I know we have a lot of mature hardwood forest that have aided in the decline of the deer population,” Rose said.
While he was mayor, Rose said that he learned a lot from timbering companies about forest management and added that he is no fan of clear-cutting.
“I do think that forest management should always include a timbering cycle,” Rose said. “It’s all right to have some mature forest, but I think cutting is definitely part of a management plan.”
While unsure if timbering in state parks would directly benefit the City of Richwood, Rose said that increased timbering in the nearby national forest would.
“We have two sawmills in town. We’re a timber town,” he said, adding that he believes the national forest is under timbered.
While hopeful that Richwood would directly benefit from opening state park lands to timbering, hardware store owner Skaggs is simply looking for any kind of forward momentum.
“I see the pros and cons both ways,” he said. “But I think the pro part of it is keeping jobs, keeping people moving and keeping things working.”
— Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @mattcombsRH