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Civil penalties 'mined' to benefit Breaks Interstate Park

Staff report • Sep 27, 2018 at 2:41 PM

LEBANON — Civil penalties assessed minerals and natural gas extraction companies for various infractions levied against their operations by state regulators continue to benefit one of Southwest Virginia’s most popular state parks.

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) has closed on a grant of up to $92,000 to the Breaks Interstate Park. The grant is distributed from the VCEDA Civil Penalties Fund to pay for improvements at the park, in this case replacement of roofs; renovation of the adventure outpost building; construction of a climbing wall; and equipment purchases including new paddleboats, kayaks and paddleboards that can be rented at the park’s Laurel Lake.

By Virginia statute, 50 percent of the civil penalties assessed minerals and gas extraction companies by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals & Energy are transferred quarterly to VCEDA “for the purposes of developing infrastructure and improvements at Breaks Interstate Park.”

VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher said VCEDA is “pleased to continue to assist the Breaks Interstate Park in further expanding its offerings here in Southwest Virginia. The Breaks Interstate Park is a key component to outdoor tourism here, and VCEDA is pleased to see the park continue to look for new ways to improve its facilities and to add to its recreational opportunities.”

Park Superintendent Austin Bradley said the site is looking forward to “offer these new recreation experiences to our visitors and to have the funds to do the upgrades to our facilities which will improve visitor experience.”

He said the park commission “appreciates the Virginia legislature and VCEDA for our access to the civil penalties funds which have allowed the park to do many improvements through the years, which we typically would have not been able to fund through our traditional revenue streams. The new funding allows us to continue to add to and improve our offerings here at the park.”

The Breaks currently has nine full-time and 102 part-time employees, and it projects the addition of two full-time and eight part-time positions within two years, Bradley said.

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