Timber project at SOCF under scrutiny

May 8, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is putting the finishing touches on a plan to harvest timber from land at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville. Lucasville residents were surprised to hear of the plan.

“I have talked to all of my neighbors, and none of them were contacted,” Judy Newman of Lucasville said. “None of them were aware. They did not contact the Valley Township Trustees. They did not contact any of by neighbors on Cook Road, none of them were aware of this. As far as I know, I don’t think they contacted the Scioto County Commissioners ahead of time.”

The commissioners said area residents have been in contact with their office regarding the ODRC’s plans.

“We’ve had a couple of people stop in and say something about that,” Scioto County Commissioners Chairman Mike Crabtree said. “But we haven’t gotten an official notification from the Department of Corrections or anything to that effect.”

Newman voiced concern over the lack of transparency in regards to the project.

“They did not contact Scioto County Soil and Water, because I contacted them (Scioto County Soil and Water),” Newman said. “None of these people were aware that this was happening. The only way the Vocational School (Scioto County Career Technical Center) was aware, is they saw people walking around in the woods and asked these men what they were doing there, and that’s how they found out.”

A statement concerning the SOCF timber project was issued by the SCCTC.

“Several weeks ago the district learned that the prison (SOCF) was interested in moving forward with a significant timber project in the wooded areas surrounding our campus. This immediately raised numerous concerns with us - including the safety and security of our students and staff, the negative impact on our beautiful campus, and the practical implications associated with having a major logging operation on our doorstep,” the statement read. “Superintendent (Stan) Jennings promptly contacted SOCF and was told by the warden that the timber project was being dictated to the prison by the state in order to generate revenue by selling off the lumber. The warden also stated that there would be select cut along Vern Riffe Drive (150 feet off each side) and that there would be a clear cut deeper into the woods. Apparently, this clear cut would not be visible from our campus. Additionally, the ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) study indicated that the timber operation’s entry into the woods would likely be Vo-Tech Drive/Vern Riffe Drive which is the direct access into the SCCTC district.”

The statement said the school had learned that some of their neighbors had learned about the timber project and were concerned about it.

“We were also made aware that the Scioto County Engineer plans to set some restrictions and permits in place for control measures,” the release read.

The statement goes on to say, “Since Superintendent Jennings’ initial contact with the warden, he has also met with the warden as well as with representatives from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. They claim that a select cut would improve woodland habitat and that they would work with the district on issues related to security and safety. In our meeting, the district emphasized that one of our primary concerns is safety and we were told that no logging trucks would enter the access road close than the gate location. Additionally, we were told that there would be no more than 4-5 trucks per day on our drive and that the logging operation would modify its schedule to accommodate our heavy bus travel times.”

One of the area’s best known environmental activists weighed in on the issue Wednesday.

“BRC is logging a massive amount of land without regard to the residents whose property borders its land. A public meeting should be scheduled immediately to address the concerns of the property owners and the bid process should be halted,” Lucasville resident Cheryl Carpenter said. “At the meeting BRCs should share its entire timber harvesting management plan and all bid maps. Following that, an environmental study/survey should be done to assess the possibility of excessive flooding and watershed degradation, destruction of habitat for endangered flora and fauna species. There is a record of an Indiana Bat hibernacula nearby. Federal law protects the Indiana Bat. And of great concern is for safety of the kids attending SCJVS and the motorist using the roads nearby. Mud is often smeared onto the roads making for hazardous conditions and large trucks often travel too fast.”

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction responded to a call from the Daily Times with the following statement.

“DRC is looking into harvesting timber on the land at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. We are currently in discussions with our community partners to work out the details of the plan. Once the details are finalized, we will release a solicitation in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources seeking bids for select cuts of timber. We are working with the necessary stakeholders to ensure compliance with all regulations involved with this plan.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.