Holiday Weekend Kayford Mountain Event to Kick off "Walk for the Mountains"
Mountaintop Removal Opponents to Walk 490 Miles in Protest of Mining Method
(June 30 Message from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. Unfortunately, this issue of the Voice will not reach folks for the early events)
KAYFORD MOUNTAIN, WV -- Opponents of mountaintop removal will gather on Kayford Mountain over the July Fourth weekend to kick off a 490-mile "Walk for the Mountains" across the state to educate people about the devastating impacts of the coal mining method.
Kayford Mountain is the ancestral home of anti-mountaintop removal activist Larry
Gibson. The mountain, about a 45-minute drive south of Charleston, is surrounded by active mountaintop removal mining operations. Gibson, who has spoken out against this form of coal mining on national and international TV news, will be one of the principal participants in the "Walk for the Mountains," organized by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC).
At 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 3, Secretary of State Ken Hechler and George Dougherty, known as the "Earl of Elkview," are scheduled to perform their version of John Denverís "Country Roads."
Hechler rewrote the lyrics: "Almost level, West Virginia. Sheared-off mountains dumped into our rivers. Dark and dusty, blasting to the sky. Murdering our mountains, teardrops in our eyes."
Other mountaintop removal opponents will speak or perform throughout the weekend. Members of the Virginia-based Monacan Indian Nation will play ceremonial drums.
Gibson, a resident of Putnam County, said anyone who wants to learn more about mountaintop removal is invited to attend the event. Primitive camping is available and guests are asked to bring picnic fare to share. "Walk for the Mountains" T-shirts will be available for a donation to help finance the walk. For directions to the mountain, people can call OVEC at 522-0246.
The "Walk for the Mountains" will begin July 7th in Harperís Ferry and end August 21 in Charleston. Gibson, Julian Martin, a coal minerís son from Lincoln County, and Mitchell Stanley, from Kanawha County, are committed to crossing the state in order to raise awareness and to encourage citizen involvement in stopping mountaintop removal. Stanley and Gibson, who recently underwent medical treatment for a heart condition, will walk as much as possible. Martin will drive a support vehicle. People from across the state are expected to join the walk as it passes their communities.
Artist Carol Jackson, a Summers County resident, will bring her mountaintop removal cemetery on the walk to set up at stops along the way. The mock graveyard features 900 tombstones, which symbolize the wholesale destruction caused by mountaintop removal to West Virginiaís streams, mountains and communities.
"Iím walking to raise awareness of whatís happening in our state," Gibson said. "Iím walking for the deep miners who no one is talking about, who are losing their jobs."
In mountaintop removal, coal companies use giant machines to scalp hundreds of feet off the tops of mountains, in order to get to thin seams of valuable low-sulfur coal. The former mountaintops are then dumped into adjacent valleys. Concerned citizens say the process drastically alters the landscape, buries important headwater streams and annihilates plant and animal life.
The walk is organized by OVEC. Other supporting groups include the WV Highlands Conservancy, Coal River Mountain Watch, WV Environmental Council, WV Rivers Coalition, Citizens Coal Council, the Monacan Indian Nation, members of the Bahaíi faith and Patagonia, Inc. _
... and What You Can Do
By Viv Stockman
Mountaintop removal is a massacre of our communities, our biological life support systems and, thus, our futures. It must be stopped. Hereís your chance to proclaim that, to go tell it OFF the mountains, over the hills and everywhere, from Harperís Ferry to Huntington.
The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) is organizing a "Walk for the Mountains" beginning July 7 in Harperís Ferry and ending (tentatively) August 19 in Huntington, with a Grand Finale in Charleston a few days later. Larry Gibson, who has recently had heart surgery, will walk as much as possible along a 490-mile route that crosses the state. WV Highlands Conservancy board member Julian Martin -- WVHC is one of the co-sponsors of the event -- will follow Larry in a vehicle. Both will speak at events all along the route.
You can help in several ways: Join in the walk for an hour, a day, a week or a month. Arrange a local meeting so that Larry and Julian can address folks in your community. Contact the press and let them know when the walk is coming through. Arrange a local meeting, press conference or other event that suits your community. Donate money. Help spread the word. Buy a tank of gas or a bumpersticker. Offer the walkers a cool drink, a meal, or a place to stay for the night. Give Larry a nice pair of broken-in high top sneakers-size 6 1/2.
All along the route, many volunteers will be needed to help set up Carol Jacksonís mountaintop removal cemetery, which features over 900 cardboard tombstones, symbolizing the wholesale destruction of West Virginiaís streams, forested mountains and mountain communities.
OVECís Laura Forman said, "Larry, Julian and others on this walk are committed to seeking justice in the coalfields and the preservation of our mountains and mountain culture. The walk will educate people and encourage their involvement. It will provide a varied format for the exchange of ideas and the discussion of the mountain massacre issue, including the underlying causes of much of West Virginiaís social and environmental inequity."
Indeed, Julian and Larry will be discussing the campaign contributions that our elected officials get from coal companies. They will point out the need for campaign finance reform if we are to reclaim the democratic process from corporate interests, interests that see nothing wrong with the unchecked greed that creates and perpetuates mountain massacre.
Towns along the route (which is still evolving) include Shepherdstown, Martinsburg, Berkeley Springs, Romney, Thomas, Parsons, Buckhannon, Webster Springs, Summersville, Fayetteville, Beckley, Whitesville, Hamlin, and Salt Rock. Side trips will be made for engagements in Morgantown, Clarksburg and other towns.
Come join this summer's hottest event. For more information or to volunteer, e-mail OVEC firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-522-0246. With your help, we can STOP the destruction of our mountains!