Memorial Day on Kayford Mountain
May 29, 2006
Photos by Vivian Stockman
One Two Three
Memorial Service in Forested Cemetery Amidst Mountain
To end the Healing Mountains conference on a somber, yet
inspirational and action-oriented note, about 100 conference
participants carpooled to Kayford Mountain on Memorial Day. For
many, it was their first time seeing the extreme-mining devastation that
is mountaintop removal.
Kayford Mountain is the ancestral home of OVEC board member Larry
Gibson. The Stanley Cemetery atop Kayford provides a vantage point for viewing
"reclaimed" and active mountaintop removal sites. Journalists, students and
concerned citizens from throughout the United States and beyond have visited the
cemetery to witness the destruction first hand. Another lesser known cemetery on Kayford is the
Stover Cemetery. The old mountaintop cemetery, covered with daylilies
shaded by maples, sassafras, basswood and many
other hardwood tree-species, is an oasis surrounded over 12,000
acres of active and reclaimed mountaintop removal mines operated by
subsidiaries of Arch Coal and Massey Energy. The cemetery is
trapped inside an Arch Coal mountaintop removal operation, and Arch
apparently previously has been reluctant to grant Stover kin access.
But, it was hard to refuse the crowd -- including four elderly Catholic
Sisters -- that Gibson led to the mine gates on Memorial Day (some
stayed behind in the Stanley Heirs Park because the climb to the
cemetery is rugged and the day was hot).
streamed through the gate where some had previously been denied access,
climbing steep and treacherous rubble, surrounded by a scene of utter
desecration, to the little island of green at the summit," said
Heartwood organizer Andy Mahler. Heartwood and the Ohio Valley
Environmental Coalition organized and hosted the Healing Mountains
Laws require mountaintop removal operations to relocate cemeteries
from mining, or to not mine within 100 feet of cemeteries and to give
people access to cemeteries remaining on otherwise mined land. Coalfield
residents frequently report that they are denied admission to
cemeteries; when they are allowed in, they are almost always accompanied
Allen Johnson, co-founder of
Christians for the Mountains, led the prayers on the mountaintop.
Scientist Mel Tyree read
Chief Seattles 1854 statement (the statement is attributed to Chief
Seattle, but was likely written by a Hollywood screenwriter)
in memory of his friend Lone Wolf, who had planned to read the
statement at the Stover Cemetery memorial before he died just a month
earlier. After other speakers, emotional memorial service
participants joined hands and reflected in silence, then vowed to
abolish mountaintop removal coal mining.
"At the cemetery we paid tribute to those before us who have loved these
mountains and to the indomitable power of the human spirit," Mahler said. "We
made a vow that together we would forever end the practice known as mountaintop
removal coal mining."
|Kentuckians For The Commonwealth's Teri Blanton
is set for the trek to Stover Cemetery with her "Coal is Crippling
|The crowd leaves Stanely Hiers park on Kayford
Mountain and sets out for the mine entrance.
|The view from the road gives the a glimpse of
|At the mine gate, people crowd the guards in
order to sign the forms that will let us on site.
|At the mine gate, a Cleveland-based film crew
working for documentary film-maker Mari-Lyn Evans wonders about
ok'ing their work to film a "conference." This just isn't like the
conferences in Ohio.
|Still milling about at the mine gate. Hmm, nice
patch of green there, eh? That is supposed to substitute for the
most biologically diverse temperate hardwood forest of earth?
One Two Three