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Families and business owners near Perry State Forest upset over proposed coal mine

Families and business owners near Perry State Forest upset over proposed coal mine
There’s a rumbling in Perry State Forest where coal mining could return by the end of this year if a permit is approved.

Families who live and work near a proposed mining site don’t want it there. They say it would be a disruption to the beauty of the forest and their lives.

Lauren Ketcham is co-owner of Down the Road Farm. The name spells out her vision.

“Our name Down the Road, one of the reasons we chose that name was because of the idea we are looking to the future,” said Ketcham.

Ketchum looked all around central and southern Ohio before settling on the land for her farm in 2011.

“We grow a variety of vegetables, strawberries, and cut flowers,” said Ketcham. “Being able to work in a beautiful place and be surrounded by trees and wildlife and that kind of thing was important to us.”

Her land borders Perry State Forest which she sees as a huge asset. Now her vision has changed greatly. Ketcham’s farm is down the road from the proposed coal mine.

“We’ll be able to hear explosions and be able to feel tremors from the blasting at the coal mine. Our property is ¾ of a mile away from the proposed coal mine so for us that’s an immediate impact in terms of quality of life,” said Ketcham.

Oxford Mining Company has applied for a permit with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to mine for coal. It would be a 10 year lease on more than 500 acres, with most of those in Perry State Forest.

“They would remove the overburden the soil that is on top and would take the coal that is lower down and would rehab it to make sure it’s back to standards,” said Stephen Rist, Division 4 Manager with ODNR Forestry Division.

The forest has been mined before, back in the 1950’s.

“As a result we have high walls which can be dangerous water quality is not the highest it’s highly acidic,” said Rist.

ODNR says the permit is under review with no timetable on a decision for final approval. Still, part of the forest landscape has already been altered.

“We’re managing the woods for the public for the people and if the permit is granted once it’s granted they can come in with equipment as soon as possible,” said Rist.

Candy Cox saw the harvesting happen from her backyard.

“You could just see them all the trees falling the animals are gone,” said Cox.

Like Ketcham, Cox is opposed to the proposed re-mining for a number of reasons. The potential noise is one.

“The water of course or property value it’ll probably go down,” said Cox.

Christopher Porter is drawn to the Perry State Forest for play. The all-purpose vehicle trails are some of the most popular in Ohio.

“There’s not a lot of places to ride these days they keep mining taking the trees out where we have no other place to go,” said Porter.

Brent Millhone believes any mining will keep riders away. What started as recreation for Millhone morphed into a business. He owns Perry Backwoods campground and wanted to expand.

“I know it will really if they change the riding I have no desire to own it I’ll probably sell or close it down,” said Millhone.

ODNR says only 49 of the 1800 acres of the APV trails will be affected. Just over a mile of trail was added to replace two loop sections closed for possible mining.

“The land will be able to be rehabilitated the contour will be made so it’s more gentle more natural but you won’t have the high walls the acidity of the water will be reduced,” said Rist.

The clearcut has families convinced it’s a done deal.

“If we were really serious about remediation and really serious about having a healthy state forest we wouldn’t be remining the area before we’re going to remediate it,” said Ketcham.

In the middle of Ketcham’s livelihood, worry grows.

“If the mining project wer to expand move into phase two that could this literally to our property line and the back of our field where we’re growing food,” said Ketcham.

Should the permit be granted, the mining could begin at the end of this year or early next year.

There’s still a chance for families to have their voices heard. Another public meeting is planned for later this summer.

Families and business owners in Perry County are upset and worried over proposed coal mine (WSYX/WTTE)


Source: abc6

By:  Tara Morgan, Thursday, July 12th 2018


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