Coal plan worries Ansted residents
ANSTED ”” A few years ago, residents watched as racers slid down a steep road in this Fayette County town in a fast-moving street luge event.
However, a plan to use that same road as a coal truck route from a new mine has some residents worried, particularly because of the tiny Head Start school that sits at the bottom of the hill.
Coal operator Jack Williams wants to strip mine more than 100 acres just outside the town limits of Ansted.
Concerned locals say they are not protesting the mining itself, but they want Williams to seek an alternate route away from town.
Williams plans to bring the trucks down the steep and curvy Rich Creek Road to U.S. 60 and through the main business section of town.
Besides their worry about the coal trucks injuring students, some Ansted residents also fear the impact of the coal dust on their town.
Ansted residents Ann and Paige Skaggs believe the coal trucks could easily be routed in a direction that would take them to the other end of Rich Creek at Jody. Another coal company is already using an alternate route in the same area.
Ann Skaggs has volunteered for several beautification projects and preservation projects that emphasis the history and culture of the town. In a letter to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer, Skaggs wrote that volunteers are successfully drawing tourists to the town’s walking trail that leads to the New River. The town has also completed cleanup projects and expanded its green space, she said.
Her husband is the chief of the Ansted Fire Department. Paige Skaggs says he worries about the safety of children who play on a ball field and playground near the Head Start.
Marianne Whipkey, a member of Ansted Town Council, repeated those concerns. ”We worked hard to make the town a walkable community,” Whipkey said. ”If these trucks come through town, this will make us go back in time, not forward. We keep this town clean and neat. It will not benefit us in any way.”
Whipkey also said it is her understanding that workers plan to dynamite every other day once the project starts.
The Rev. Roy Crist, pastor to several Episcopal churches, including the one in Ansted, said according to the mining permit application, the trucks would run 24 hours a day.
”I’m not opposed to the coal mining,” Crist said. ”But when the trucks come through town, they will tear up the roads and present serious safety concerns. You have the Head Start at the bottom of that hill. You have the city park that can be filled with hundreds of people during the summer time.”
He also said that many people have worked to make the town look nice. ”It’s starting to blossom,” he said. Crist said he feared that the coal trucks bringing dust and grit through town will ruin that.
Ansted Mayor Pete Hobbs presented the town’s concerns in writing to the DEP. Hobbs said the trucks will make ”an 800-foot drop as they come down that hill. Then they have to make a sharp right turn. There is the potential for a catastrophic event, if a truck would lose its brakes or not make the turn.”
Hobbs and others in town are also at work to connect a trail network in town with the New River national park’s trail system. Hobbs said he wants reassurances that the land will be restored after the mining and not damage the potential trail network.
Hobbs said he has received notification from DEP officials that the town’s concerns are on file. Hobbs and others have requested a public meeting to discuss the permit application, but no date for such a hearing has been set.
Residents have had informal meetings to try to get more information about their options.
Williams did not return calls to his Bradley office.