CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A proposed project to expand and improve West Virginia International Yeager Airport is receiving mixed reactions.

In addition to constructing a new terminal, the project proposes expanding the airport’s runway 285 feet and shifting it 1,125 feet northeast cutting into Coonskin Park.

Jeff Hutchinson, the director of Kanawha County Parks and Recreation, said it’ll take over about 40% of the park demolishing picnic areas and walking trails. He said it’s a project that the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission fully supports.

“It’s important for the people in the county to not only have trails to hike, but when they’re families and stuff come in they want to be able to see them to get in and out of the airport,” he said. “You need restaurants. You need hotels. That’s what brings people.”

Others, however, like Jim Waggy with the Kanawha Forest Coalition think otherwise. He claims the airport expansion will have a devastating impact on the park with little gain for the community.

“Coonskin Park is the only area in our county park system that provides the opportunity for people to come out and appreciate these natural areas,” he said. “I think it’s something valuable and worth protecting.”

Waggy said he as well as others led a similar fight over 20 years ago when the airport proposed a similar project. One woman, the late Alice Knight, was such a defender of the park that they named a trail after her. He said that trail is just one of many that would be destroyed.

“The thought that this trail that was named in her honor for protecting the park could potentially be buried by this project is not an easy thing to consider,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working on an environmental impact statement to evaluate the environmental effects of the project.

There will be two in-person meetings discussing the environmental impact of the project happening on Wednesday, Nov. 2, and Thursday, Nov. 3 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Embassy Suits on Court Street in Charleston. A virtual meeting is scheduled on Monday, Nov. 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.