People in McDowell County speak out about land leasing disputes

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WELCH, WV (WVNS) — Members of the McDowell County community are not happy with recent land leasing disputes.

For decades, McDowell County residents said they used back roads around the area for anything from hunting, to going about their day to day lives. Now, more and more of these roads are being blocked-off from the public. Delegate Ed Evans (D) from 27th District of the West Virginia House of Delegates said it is becoming a problem.

“We have a real problem with people putting up gates on roads that have been open for generations,” Evans said.

According to county leaders, several pieces of land in the county were purchased by National Resource partners. The individual plots of land were then leased and blocked off. Members of the community said the are upset with this transaction. Michelle Hamilton is one of those concerned citizens.

“I don’t think it’s right that they should block them all off,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said her family dug out some of the ATV riding trails off of these roads. She said for decades families in the area used these roads to get to hunting grounds and now some people cannot even visit their loved ones graves.

“I’ve lived here for over 45 years and all the routes we used to run are blocked-off, there are even cemeteries up on those routes we cant even go up to the family cemeteries to decorate,” said Hamilton.

People in McDowell County recently met with county representatives to express their concerns.

“It just made you want to cry. It was absolutely sad as it could be that people could not access a cemetery of all things,” Said Del. Evans.

After hearing the outcry from the public, Evans said he wants to do something to solve the dispute as quickly as possible. He said he is already working on a bill to do just that.

“That will prevent people from gating these public roads that have been open to anybody longer than 20 years,” Evans said.

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