NEW LEXINGTON — The Friends of Perry State Forest held a meeting update discussing the progress being made on the permit request being made for CCU Coal and Construction LLC (CCU, owned by Charles C. Ungurean) to mine part of the Perry State Forest.

The legislative aide, Dan Cech, to the Speaker of the House Larry Householder was scheduled to meet with members of the group, but was unable to appear.

In June, Friends of Perry State Forest met with the legislative aide to address their concerns about a proposed mining project that would affect several acres of the forest. At that meeting, Cech stated that he would be a liaison for the group who are passionate about the potential for the forest.

Members of the group voiced their concerns to Cech stating that the forest would suffer the effects of mining. Some individual’s water systems could be affected as a result of mining.

Brent Millhone, owner of Perry Backwoods Campgrounds, offered the Speaker’s aide an opportunity to visit the forest and to see its uniqueness. Millhone stated that the forest is important to Perry County and can be beneficial especially for children.

After the meeting in June, Millhone and Cech conversed and scheduled a day for him to visit Perry County and see the forest. The intended meeting date was scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Perry Backwoods Campgrounds. However, the Speaker’s aide was unable to meet with group members due to scheduling conflicts.

“I’m disappointed that Mr. Cech did not tour the Perry State Forest, as scheduled,” Lauren Ketcham told The Perry County Tribune. “It would have been a great opportunity for him to see our popular forest first-hand and learn about what’s at stake for the many riders, businesses, and the Speaker’s local constituents, who were gathered for the tour.”

The meeting that was scheduled a week in advance was intended to show the uniqueness that the Perry State Forest holds, according to Millhone. Millhone, along with other members, gathered up dirt bikes, ATVs and Razors as they would ride through the state forest highlighting some of trails and scenic views of the forest. Millhone, and others drove from the campgrounds to an ATV parking lot and waited for the Cech to arrive.

Due to time constraints and poor communication, Cech was unable to be present for the ride through the state forest. Cech stated that his poor knowledge of the area in addition to his poor cell coverage was the reason for his absence. He added that he was at the state forest at around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday but was unable to find the meeting location.

Cech stated that he hopes to reschedule the meeting, but no dates have been set as of yet.

While members of the state forest group were upset that Cech was not present, they allowed The Perry County Tribune to accompany the group on a ride through the Perry State Forest. Some of the trails through the forest have been closed due to the stagnant permit for mining in the area. Some trails have been altered making some rides potentially dangerous, according to Millhone.

“Those in and beyond the Speaker’s district have spoken out loud and clear against the proposed coal mine in the Perry State Forest,” Ketcham stated.

Ketcham added that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) stated that it had received over 1,000 emails in opposition to the project. She also said that the public has voiced their concerns but feel as though they are being ignored by elected officials.

“I hope that Speaker Householder will stand with his constituents, publicly oppose the project, and do everything in his power to preserve Perry State Forest for the enjoyment of the public,” Ketcham said.

The Friends of Perry State Forest held a meeting after the ride through the forest around 6 p.m. at the Perry Backwoods Campgrounds. In the meeting, members were updated on the status of the permit for CCU to mine a portion of the state forest.

The permit transfer request from Oxford to CCU has yet to be approved and ODNR has not approved the mining permit for the proposed project. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issued a water permit in December of last year and the Friends of Perry State Forest joined the Ohio Environmental Council in January to file an appeal with the Environmental Review Appeals Commission which is currently pending.

The group also announced that it will be doing fundraising to benefit the Friends of Perry State Forest. The Perry Backwoods Campground will be raffling off a light bar which was donated by Treadway, a local ATV dealership. The $450 valued prize will be raffled at their annual Poker Run on Sept. 22.

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