2015: Year in review

By Owen Wells and Fred Pace - owells@civitasmedia.com - fpace@civitasmedia.com

In review of the news coverage by the Coal Valley News in 2015, the editorial staff found three standout stories nestled among the most-viewed pages of our website.

The stories included changes to the Hatfield and McCoy trail system, a string of issues at the Donald R. Kuhn Juvenile Detention Center and the amazing survival story of a young man struck by two vehicles.

1) Hatfield and McCoy Trails in Boone, Lincoln counties close — On Oct. 7, 2015, the Coal Valley News reported on the closure of the Little Coal River and Ivy Branch trail systems.

“The authority received notice from the landowners that it would be necessary to close these two trail systems due to changing ownership of the property and its future uses,” said Jeffrey Lusk, executive director of Hatfield McCoy Trails in a press release.

All other trail systems and the remaining 500 miles of trail will be open to riders with no changes, he said.

“We appreciate the landowners for allowing us to use their property for the past 12 years,” Lusk said. “They have been very good partners with the trails as have all the 96 coal, timber, natural gas and land holding companies that allow the Hatfield McCoy Trails to use their property.”

The Hatfield McCoy Trail System is a statutory corporation created by the West Virginia Legislature to generate economic development through tourism in nine southern West Virginia counties.

As of 2013, the Hatfield McCoy Trail System covered more than 700 miles of off-road trails in seven of its nine project counties. All of the trail systems are open 365 days a year to ATVs, dirt bikes, and utility vehicles . Many of the trail systems also offer community connecting trails that allow visitors to access “ATV-friendly towns” to experience the charm of southern West Virginia.

2) Juvenile center in Julian no longer safe, advisory board says — In July 2015, members of the Advisory Board of the Donald R. Kuhn Juvenile Detention Center in Julian said the center was no longer providing services in a secure and safe environment.

“For many years, the DRK center, along with the other regional centers, admirably fulfilled its mission in rehabilitating, educating and house the juveniles sent to them by the courts,” the board said in a letter to the editor of the Coal Valley News in Madison. “DRK delivered these services in a secure and safe environment. This is no longer true.”

The DRK advisory board, cited an incident in May 2015 as the final violence incident in what they call a “trend” and say they can no longer remain silent about their concerns for the safety of the youth, staff and community at the DRK center and all centers across the state.

In the May 2015 incident, several staff members at a detention facility in Boone County were injured when they were attacked by a handful of juveniles at the center, a state official said.

One of the juveniles was armed with an aluminum pipe when the incident occurred in the recreation area at DRK, it was reported.

Some of the staff members sustained bruises and leg injuries and a broken wrist while they were detaining the juveniles. Some of the staff members were transported to Boone Memorial Hospital for treatment.

“There were 13 staff members sent to the hospital in that incident in May,” said advisory board member Delores Cook. “Though extreme, this is part of an escalating trend at the facility.”

The incident lasted about 10 or 15 minutes, and there was minimal property damage, reports indicated. Boone County sheriff’s deputies also responded.

The juveniles were returned to the detention center.

“It seemed as if the center in Julian was operating smoothly, until the Salem home was shut down and the state began an overhaul of the juvenile detention system,” Cook said. “Then it became a maximum security facility, but it also houses other types of juvenile offenders and mixes violent and non-violent offenders at the same center. We believe this could also be part of the problem.”

West Virginia is getting a well-timed boost toward ensuring the success of its new, ground-breaking juvenile justice reforms, according to Lawrence Messina, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed his historic measure, Senate Bill 393, into law on Thursday, April 2, of this year following its passage by a unanimous Legislature. The reforms reflect recommendations from the West Virginia Intergovernmental Task Force on Juvenile Justice, created by Gov. Tomblin and assisted by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

3) Sherman football player’s “miracle story” — On Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, Hunter Gillispie was hit reportedly hit by two cars and survived to tell the tale.

“I had my school clothes on and didn’t want to get them dirty so I went to cross the road in place I don’t normally cross and I didn’t see the car,” Hunter said Friday during an interview with the Coal Valley News.

Hunter was hit by the first car on his right leg, which flipped him over and into another oncoming vehicle.

“I landed on top of the windshield of a Durango,” Hunter said. “I knew I was hurt, but I wasn’t sure how bad. I was sort of in shock.”

A family friend, Joey Ward with the local volunteer fire department, responded to the call and stayed with Hunter while his family was notified of the accident.

“When we all heard we were scared to death,” said Hunter’s mom, Tressie. “I am so glad Joey was there to hold his hand until he was transported to the hospital.”

At the hospital, Hunter received seven staples in a gash in his head and screws and pins for his broken femur bone.

Hunter had survived being hit by not one car, but two.

“I know God was with him,” Hunter’s mom said. “It was a miracle he was not hurt worse or killed.”

By Owen Wells and Fred Pace



Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-369-1165 ext. 1661 or by email at owells@civitasmedia.com.

Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-369-1165 ext. 1661 or by email at owells@civitasmedia.com.

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