*A 2 ½ hour video is playing on Athens Cable Access, and is available (We need VCR's loaned to make copies to get to access stations around Ohio. If anyone in Athens or Columbus could loan one, please call Chad at: (740) 594-7287.
A narrative of the walk (in progress):
by Chad Kister
Puffy clouds floated across a blue sky. The cool breeze was a pleasant chill compared to the oppressive 95+ degree high-humidity heat of the week prior. Matt Evans, Chris Evans, Dina Rudick and Justin Goodwin had camped the night prior. Gerald Cherney had stayed in a nearby hotel. Sarah Radke and Luke Ellsworth arrived. Joy Joyner and Steve Rounthwaite came with me from Athens in a 55-mile to the gallon geo metro packed as full as the hatchback possibly could be.
Diane Burnham, Helen, Ann and Mitch Bartels, a photographer from the Times-Leader and others from Belmont County arrived.
Dysart Defenders Coordinator Chad Kister said, "We're about to walk 120 mile from here to Columbus. We will start with Dianne Burnham, who has been very active in the Belmont County Area. Dianne."
Dianne Burnham said, "I want to thank everyone for coming today and for inviting me to speak here. I have been active with the Friends of Dysart Woods since spring of 97 when we first heard about the permit to longwall mine the uphill watershed of Dysart Woods. I am so glad to see that there are so many caring young people here who are going to march to protect God's Creation.
"I wanted you to know that since I have become active in trying to save Dysart Woods, I have discovered a great many religious organizations involved in something new called spiritual ecology. Four thousand Catholic Churches across the United States are now involved in protecting God's Creation because they see Genesis as the words dominion as meaning stewardship, and a great many of the United Methodists are seeing this. Now I have a spiritual ecology committee in my own church in St. Clairsville. It is something that is spreading.
"It is a good thing to get involved with because these religious groups can help and unite with environmentalists now in the name of the church and I think that is a great thing to happen. Dysart Woods is just a symbol of what is happening in America today as industry transforms our beautiful natural resources that we have all enjoyed into cash that only a few enjoy.
"Some of you people are so young you have already been excluded
from seeing the sites that I have seen because they have been destroyed
by industry. I want you to understand that when my generation used
utilities, we had absolutely no idea – we did not make the connection.
But many of us are making the connection and we are trying to make up for
lost time here.
Many people have worked to save Dysart Woods from the same fate that has happened to other mined areas. Belmont County has been longwall mined. Centerville has been longwall mined. We have been strip mined. There are people here today that can tell you what their experience has been Helen has neighbors who have been mined and she knows what their experience has been.
"In the Spring of ‘98, I traveled to Columbus to get a copy of the administrative file for this very mining permit in question, D-0360-7. In that administrative record there was well over 6,000 names of people all over the state of Ohio and all over the country begging the state to deny this mining permit. Many of these letters were from groups of people, not just one person. The Sierra Club wrote letters. The 4-H club wrote letters. Tri-State Garden Club wrote letters. The League of Women Voters for Ohio wrote letters to the state." (more of her speech and Kister's intro speech to come)
We could not have done the walk without the thankless job that Joy Joyner did as our support leader. She made sure we had everything packed up, food for lunch, dinner and getting permission for rest stops in the shade. Joy finished loading so the group could leave on schedule at 11 a.m.
We walked at a fast pace through the breathtakingly scenic vistas. I carried three gallons of water in my backpack. We also carried a banner tied to two sticks to hold the cloth taught and readable. The banner was pained by Dina in a nice tree with the words "Save Dysart Woods" in red articulately painted lettering (see photos under the gallery button).
Other carried signs, including ones that hung around peoples necks. The rolling country was gloriously beaufiful. The lush green hay fields with fresh cut hay in neat rolls made for a picturesque landscape. The young forest and wild flowers were painted on the landscape by Natures perfect brush.
Floyd Simpson joined us shortly before we reached his property. He gave us all fruit drinks, the first sign of the massive support we were to receive on the multi-marathon trek we were undertaking for the great ancient forest from which we began. Floyd motioned for us to walk in his hay field that ran next to the road. "We have permission from the farmer here," I said. "We may as well live it up."
Floyd talked about the process of hay bailing. "What do farmers do with the white plastic," he asked. "That is a major environmental issue out on the farm"
It is a sure shame that they want to mine Dysart Woods, Simpson said. He recently filed for his 54 acre property to be declared a National Historic Site. His farm sits in the watershed buffer zone and under where permit 7 encroaches on that buffer zone. Ohio Valley Coal Company received permission to mine permit 7 by the Ohio Division of Mines and Reclamations, and their operation is fast under way, if not under the area already.
It is the watershed buffer zone of Dysart Woods, a small 4,170 acres in a state of more than 26 million acres, that must be protected from all forms of mining if we are to be assured the preservation of the last ancient forest of its type in Ohio. I congratulated Floyd on his success in designating his property.
Floyd bid us farewell sometime after we reached the end of his farm. "You're actions are much appreciated," he said. "So are yours," I said.
On we went with much support from the passing traffic, who slowed down for our safety, many of which stopped to talk with us. We passed out brochures.
Miles ahead, in Barnsville we stopped at Wendy's to go to the bathroom and get drinks. They gave us a discount after finding out what we were doing. Shortly after leaving, a man stopped his car, wanting to talk with us. He said he was an employee with Ohio Valley Coal Company. He said OVCC had worked out a deal in which no mining would take place under Dyasrt Woods.
"Then why does OVCC have a pending permit to mine under Dysart Woods?" I asked.
He was silent, then repeated his assertion that the coal company with a pending permit to mine under Dysart Woods did not intend to mine under the forest. He said that he needs to feed his family.
Dina began talking with the man. A Barnsville police cruiser pulled up behind and waited patiently. I retreated to the sidewalk, while Dina stayed in the street to talk to him. Many minutes later, the man motioned to leave. "I don't have anything against you personally," I yelled as a good will gesture. "I don't have anything against you," the man yelled back.
On we walked. We talked with numerous people, all of whom were supportive. Many gave us their address to keep informed of Dysart Defenders events. We met a stray dog who befriended us. But he kept going into the middle of the street. While we took the wrong turn, unknowingly for about a mile, the dog walked the right way, sat down and looked back at us to follow.
When we reached the hospital, I knew we'd gone the wrong way. Friendly people in their front yard told us a shortcut. At a church along the short-cut, Dina went inside to see if she could use the rest room. She came out with $40+ in donations.
On we walked to our camp at a farm several miles farther down the valley. Horses and cattle interacted with us as we walked through the lush summer countryside. The large yellow smiley faces on the barn were the further indication of the hospitality we were to receive all through the walk. The sun had fallen behind the steep ridge behind the barn by the time we arrived. The farmer said his neighbor had a 10 foot diameter oak tree on his land. He said it was hard to get to, though.
Though having just hiked 18 miles, five of us joined the farmer to see the tree. We set out for an adventurous hike through brambles, over and under barb wire fences to a mighty red oak some six feet in diameter. Still, the tree was far different in character than the old-growth trees of Dysart Woods. The first brances began less than 10 feet from the ground, whereas the trees in Dysart Woods don't began branching out for 80 or more feet from the ground. The tree was formed to hunker down to the ground to protect it from wind and storm. The trees in Dysart Woods are buffered enough by the forest of giant trees to allow them to grow so tall.
"Notice the structure compared to Dysart?" I asked Chris Evans. "Yeah, the brances are much lower," he said. Though I admired the great tree, I was again reminded of the exceptional uniqueness of the trees at Dysart Woods.
We all stood in awe of the mighty tree as the soothing light of sunset cast a surreal scene around the enlivened tree. "Something about the register that this tree is on kept the loggers and the farmer from cutting down this tree," he said.
It was a tough journey back through the dense briars and barb wire down a steep hillside in the increasingly dark evening. But the colors of orange, purple, pink and yelloow streaming through the trees and green brush made for an awesomely beautiful scene. The farmer amazed us with his agility. His dog, Tops, stuck so closely to him that the bonds of their relation were made visible.
We reached the old railroad bed and travel became easy. The tracks had been taken out, leaving just a path. One wouldn't know that there were tracks except for the occasional scrap of railroad tie or a spike.
By the time we turned from the path into the dense brush, it was exceedingly dark. We were surrounded by a wall of multiflora rose, shoulder-height barb wire fences and steep, near vertical hillsides. The farmer led the way, bush-whacking with the wisdom of ages in the rock-hardened body of a farmer.
A cicada road on my shoulder. They made a loud chorus. Whenever one was brushed or accidently stepped on, it screamed for us to stop. I remarked to the farmer on how the cicadas had evolved from the clumsy blank-staring creatures that arose from the earth months ago to the dexterous, mystical creatures that were singing a festival of the forest this June 15 day.
"It's sad," the farmer mused. "There is now way I will ever be able to see them again.
"How old are you," I asked, after an empathetic silence.
"I am 87," he answered.
"My great grandmother lived to be 104," I said. "I hope you live at least that long. I want to live at least that long."
Reaching camp, I was ready for food. Joy had made a bunch of rice, but we had left the tofu and veggies back on the other support vehicle at Dysart Woods. Sarah and Dina drove back in the Geo Metro to get the other car.
During the hour until it returned, we were forever grateful to Casa Nueva for having donated six pints of their Athens-made salsa and two bags of corn chips for providing us with a fulfilling appetizer until the main course returned and was cooked. (Thanks to the Farmacy Natural Food Store and the New Market for donating organic food).
Some camped across the field from the barn by the stream, and others stayed in the barn. Most walkers were not prepared for the 45 degree chill of the night after the baking heat of the prior week.
I awoke early the next morning. I walked up the hillside to pet the horse. At the top of the hill I exchanged looks with a deer some 70 feet away for about a minute before she bolted off.
I made coffee over the stove. Dina Rudick made pancake batter. But because our large skillets were not seasoned, the pancakes stuck to them, and we only had tiny one-serving aluminum cam skillets that took forever. Purple martins danced about the barn. I sewed up a gaping hole in my backpack with thread. The farmer came to talk just as we were ready to leave. We chatted a while then began walking. It was about 9 a.m. by the time we left for the 23-mile hike to Cambridge.
It was a long day, but relatively cool and sublimely beautiful across Ohio's rolling countryside. 147 West turned into 265 West like it was the same road. The two-lane road was graced by trees on both sides. We walked through a construction zone, hot and weary in the late morning sun. Our support vehicle stopped nearby. We filled our water jugs, ate nut bread and loaded up on dried seeds, nuts and fruits.
My knees began to hurt from the pounding on the pavement. As we walked into Guernsey County, recalled a recent public hearing in Cambridge that had discussed the dumping of radioactive slag material throughout the county as building fill.
The mile markers were counting down toward where 265 would dead end into Route 40, which we would take West all the way to the Statehouse. While I thought there was about 10 miles to go, a support person said we would be at Cambridge when the mile markers reached zero, which would mean six miles to go. We all celebrated.
On we walked. Mile after mile, we watched expectantly as the mile marker numbers fell. As our legs grew weaker and more tired, the falling mile markers were an ever-pleasant knowledge that rest, showers and pizza were not far away.
As we arrived at the intersection where 265 reached 40, a sign said that Cambridge was still four mile to go. Our beleagered legs, expecting a night-long rest, protested. But on we trudged. Because darkness was nearly upon us, and our showers at the YMCA had to be taken by 10 p.m., Dina and Chris hitch-hiked ahead to get our support vehicles. We stopped the walk about two miles short of Cambridge's center, and would shuttle back to that spot the next morning. We only had 15 miles to go to the following day's stop even with the additional two miles. We were staying in the United Methodist Church in the center of the city.
Thanks to Luke Elsworth, we had the YMCA showers, six pizzas and the church to stay in. We also had use of the Church's phone to call media about the walk. With just 15 miles the next day, we decided to wait until noon to walk, giving everyone a rest. I did a radio interview with Ohio News Network at 7 a.m., and called media throughout the morning. I did interviews and set up talk shows and interviews as we would be walking by media outlets throughout the remainder of the walk. More than 200 faxes had already been sent to media throughout Ohio and all along the route. The church provided us with coffee and doughnuts. With the expansive church kitchen, we also made nutritious pancakes, and prepared chile for the evening.
Luke helped to shuttle everyone back to where we had stopped. As we reached the center of town a photographer from the Cambridge Newspaper took photos of us at the Court House. We handed out pamphlets. My legs were in pain from inflamed tendons in my knees. I hobbled up and down steps to deliver pamphlets to people who asked about Dysart Woods (from out banner), then hobbled faster to catch up with the walk.
The day was cool, breezy and nice, but the sun beat down, sapping energy. We met a professor in New Concord from Muskingum College, William Kerrigan. We talked Kerrigan for quite some time, and he said he wanted to start a chapter of Dysart Defenders in New Concord. The quaint town reminded me of Concord, and two of my literary heroes, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Many miles out of New Concord, we reached a detour sign, and a sign noting that Route 40 was closed ahead for road construction. The road was calm and earily serene for long, extended periods of time. We wandered into the middle of the road as if it were entirely a pedestrian path. It was also world take over the streets day. The desolate four-land and bicycle lane highway looked like a scene out of the future when oil runs out.
Though the green countryside was marred by the asphalt road, during the long stretches between cars, nature ruled the sense of sound. The birds sang nature's chorus while the cicadas chanted the rhythm and harmony. The Cicadas had mysterious inflections of sound like monks ohming in unison to God.
A truck stopped ahead for directions. We sat and rested for a while, thinking it was still a ways ahead. Nor more than 100 yards from resuming walking, we came upon the home that would serve as our camp, and were greeted with warmth and hospitality that was showered upon us but that we could never get used to. A table full of the finest home-made deserts, lemonaid and ice tea greeted us. A giant, deluxe chill with tofu and shitake mushrooms finished cooking on the stove. I opened up some of my home brews for those who were of legal drinking age.
The lower-income family opened up their home and let us take showers, use the bathroom and kitchen – for that matter the entire house. They also fed. We strung up the banner between two large trees in their front yard. We set up tents and talked late into the night.
Rousing everyone to get going the next morning was a challenge, but word of all the leftover desserts and doughnuts eventually did the trick.
A few miles after starting the walk we reached the end of the road. A bridge over a railroad was out for repair. We followed an access road down to the railroad tracks, then back up to the road.
The road gradually turned from a ghost town to a regular road. The bicycle lane made for easy walking. We stopped to talk to a man and our support vehicle showed up for lunch. "Can we eat lunch in your shade," I asked, motioning toward a tree in his back yard.
"Sure," he said. "Help yourself to the chairs and table, too." We sprawled out on his lawn and ate the rest of the humus, chili on bread and the last of the deserts. The man whose house we stopped at had his arm in a cast from a recent motorcycle accident. He was working to protect the bald eagle in Tennessee. "We need to get the eagle back here in Southeast Ohio, too," I said. He agreed.
It was late in the evening when a van with a middle-aged couple pulled up by Dave Hill ahead. The woman had been his professor at Ohio State University. I asked the man if he knew where Judge Allen Wolfe's place was. He said that it was about a quarter or half mile farther. "You're staying at Judge Wolfe's? How did you manage that?" he asked. I explained how we had been talking when I'd mentioned a common acquaintance of both of ours, a prosecutor in Athens, Mickey Prisley. Mickey was engaged with Wolfe's daughter. I was on a panel with Mickey a few years prior. But I didn't know much about Judge Wolfe.
"Is he a Democrat or Republican," I asked.
"He's a good Republican like I am," the man said. Both he and his wife expressed support for protecting Dysart Woods from coal mining.
The last half mile was oh, so long. I had to stay up front because the place where we were staying was so far off the road, there was no way the walkers would see it. "We're here!" I exclaimed. We were all weary. We walked along the long driveway. Matt was on a concrete bridge over a stream working to start my stove. The Judge's white barn was beyond the stream, and a large hill reaching far up the landscape was all open to our camping pleasures thanks to this most generous judge.
A family had allowed us to camp at their place around Hebron. But I realized I had told them the wrong day. When I called them back, they said they would not be around that day, leaving us without a place. This had been troubling me from the start of the walk, but I had not had time to scout another place until now, the evening prior to it.
Joy and I drove up ahead to scout where we would stay the following night. Some time after Jacksontown, I pulled up by a large brick house to see what our luck would be. It was the first place that we tried.
"Kids ran up to us and I asked if their parents were there. Some time later a woman opened the door. "We're on a 120 mile walk to save Dysart Woods, and ancient forest east of here. We are going to be in this area and in need of a place to camp tomorrow evening. Sorry for the very late notice, but we just have about a dozen people in several tents. Could we stay here?"
"Sure, I'd love to help out," she said. "I imagine showers would be nice, too,"
"Yes, if that is possible," I said.
"Sure. We just have one, but we can rotate through," she said.
What a relief. She said that her landlord wanted to develop the nice green farm field extending for hundreds of yards to the north.
"But they would have to put the access road right through the house because there are springs on either side of this," She said. "Dawes Arboretum is just over there," she said, motioning to the end of the farm field threatened by development.
Though concerned about the green landscape I gazed upon, I was ecstatic that we had a place to stay and such a wonderful setting – and showers!
There was still a little light left when I returned, and some spaghetti. Sarah had made a nice sign that read, "Walkin' 120 miles," in green and red paint. Some slept in tents, others in the barn.
We had oatmeal and coffee the next morning, cooked over a stove on a bridge over a little creek.
It was late by the time we reached Jacksontown. My legs did not want to go any farther. A mile later we reached the brick house, large sugar maples and the open field. The sky lit up in a glorious sunset (see pictures at the gallery). The sky was illuminated in an orange-yellow-pink-purple array of pure beauty. We carried wood out to where we could make a fire, but by the time we'd eaten a wonderful potato stew made by Matt and Joy, we were all too tired, and went to sleep.
We debated the next morning about whether to walk in two shifts because of the 25 miles that we had to go. But the majority favored walking the full distance, with those who needed taking time off to rest. Three people from Gahanna joined the walk. For lunch, we stopped under a tree at an ostrich farm. We stopped at an ice cream place late in the afternoon. Joy pulled up, and we had a phone call with two people who were going to help with support for the day. Joy was exhausted, and overjoyed with the added help.
On we went. Marcia Rose stopped and took video footage of the walk. It was after dark by the time Marcia, Mark and Chris came in their cars to shuttle us to my parents house. We would resume the walk where we stopped, just over the I-270 overpass at a restaurant called Fudruckers.
We got up early the next morning and had pancakes and coffee. We shuttled to where we started and began walking at 7:45 a.m. Now we were in the home stretch. We handed out pamphlets and were greeted with enthusiasm and support despite the fact it was a Monday morning. At the Drexel theater in Bexley, we were given bottle of spring water. We walked through the fancy homes of Bexley to Broad Street.
Up Broad Street we stopped at the Franklin Park Conservatory where we waited for people who were meeting us. Marcia, and Kevin Wexler joined the walk. As we walked to the Statehouse, we chanted "Save Dysart Woods." We yelled for joy as we walked up to the Statehouse lawn for our rally, the close of the 120 mile walk. A piece of history was marked by our journey toward the preservation of the last remnant of unglaciated virgin forest left in Ohio, Dysart Woods. But much, much more activism still needs done if the ancient forest is to truly be saved into the millennium to come.
(A transcript of the Statehouse speeches is to come)
Email sent to Dysart Defenders:
March for the Ancients a success;
Dysart Defenders hearing Thur. July 8 before the Ohio Reclamation Commission
Ten Dysart Defenders walked 120 miles from Dysart Woods to Columbus from June 15-21 to demonstrate the need to protect Dysart Woods from pending permits to mine underneath it by Ohio Valley Coal Company. More than a dozen others joined sections of the walk, including a Muskingum College Professor and a farmer, Floyd Simpson.
Walkers received tremendous support from those they encountered with donations, showers, food and places to camp and shelter provided all along the way. Walkers stayed at farms, a church and at my parents house in Columbus.
At the Statehouse, walkers gave eloquent pleas for Dysart Woods' protection. About 50 photos are on the web, with much more to come at: www.ohio.pageville.com/dysartwoods/ and all of the opening and closing walk speeches plus much more coverage will be on the site soon. Media are welcome to download and use any photos, graphics, text or anything from the web site.
Walkers were from throughout Ohio, including Belmont County, Vermillion, Wadsworth, Columbus, Reynoldsburg, Gahanna, Athens, Toledo, New Concord, Cambridge, Zanesville and more.
The walk was a way to directly talk with the people of Ohio. Walkers were surprised by the massive volume of support and the lack of opposition as they walked through coal mining country all the way to the Statehouse. At least 98 percent of those who expressed opinions were in full support of the walk and its purpose to save Dysart Woods.
Coal miners said that they could not understand why Bob Murray, President of Ohio Valley Coal Company was trying to mine under such an important place as Dysart Woods. More than a half dozen coal miners or former coal miners along the journey said that they want to see Dysart Woods protected by not allowing mining under or near Dysart Woods.
OVCC President Bob Murray needs to listen to his own people. The walk demonstrated conclusively that the people of Ohio demand the protection of our last ancient forest of its type."
A cloth petition with hundreds of signatures filling the 15-foot long banner was unveiled at the Statehouse at the end of the walk. That petition along with another with more than a thousand signatures will be presented to the Ohio Reclamations Commission as part of the Dysart Defenders appeal.
Walker Stephen Routhwaite of Albany wrote the following poem during the walk (semi-colons denoting new lines), "Robbery Murray; and his money grubbing machines; By all means; Thinks with all ease; He can come in and kill; All of Dysart's Trees; With little opposition; Boy was he wrong; When he met us; For we are Dysart Defenders; Till we turn to dust."
Petitions with 10,000+ names on them have been submitted calling for the preservation of the full watershed buffer zone of Dysart Woods. Another 1,000+ signatures have been gathered on a petition supporting the Dysart Defenders appeal. Hundreds of citizens have signed a cloth petition that we displayed during the walk.
Dysart Defenders has a hearing next July 8
before the Ohio Reclamation Commission at which time we will show the signatures
to help to demonstrate the standing of the organization. We will
present the petition at the main hearing for the Dysart Defenders appeal.
The hearing next Thursday will be where Ohio Valley Coal Company, lawyers
for Ohio University and the Buckeye Forest Council, and Dysart Defenders
officers and our lawyer John Sproat will present information to the Reclamation
Commission and be questioned by commission members. The
hearing will be about whether Dysart Defenders and I have standing to appeal the Lands Unsuitable Petition for Dysart Woods. This is necessary for the appeal to go forward, and it is a critical hearing in the appeal process. Several Dysart Defenders members will testify and
present written affidavits of support.
Assuming I and or Dysart Defenders are granted standing to appeal, the hearing would be in the fall or winter at which time the petitions would be presented.
The vast majority of those we encountered all through the walk were very supportive of saving Dysart Woods. The massive volume of petition signatures compared to none in support of Ohio Valley Coal Company is indicative of the massive tide of public opposition to OVCC's proposed mining under Dysart Woods. Through the heart of coal country we received overwhelming support for protecting Dysart Woods. That says a lot.
It was a long and tough journey. I had large blisters, inflamed tendons in both knees and my legs hurt excruciatingly for most of the walk. Other walkers faired similarly. But we were blessed with cooler weather and no rain, except for our rest morning when we were staying in a church in Cambridge (we just had 15 miles to go on that day).
Unforunately, the walk has been virtually ignored in Athens, where the event was organized from and from where most of the walkers are from. Six of the walkers were Ohio University students, and five of those walked all the way from Dysart Woods. We left early in the morning and walked until after 8 p.m. every day except for one, when we left at noon and walked to 9 p.m. Many of the days we were limited to very short lunches and very short and sparse rest breaks.
Contact: Chad Kister: (740) 594-7287 or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.chadkister.com
Sarah Radke: (330) 336-7746; Gerald Cherney: (440) 967-0870; Marcia Rose: (740) 653-6915