Monroe County residents show continuing support for lone tree-si - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Monroe County residents show continuing support for lone tree-sitter

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LINDSIDE, WV -- On a warm and sticky Monday evening, a couple dozen Monroe County residents fill the parking lot of Lindside Methodist church, the largest in Monroe County. 

A statue of Jesus with arms outstretched stands watch over the gravel lot.

It's not bingo or a bean supper that draws the faithful. Rather, it is civil disobedience of a kind.

Many in the group are members of "Preserve Monroe" and they have been meeting regularly on Monday nights for one purpose: to shine a light in the darkness, both literal and figural.

That's because across the street sit two large pieces of construction equipment, the latest physical manifestation of the coming and controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline.

The 306-mile-long pipeline is to carry natural gas from the fracking fields of Wetzel County, West Virginia, to a terminus in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. At 42 inches in diameter, the pipeline is the largest ever proposed in the two Virginias. And it has drawn the loudest opposition of any engineering project in recent Mountain State history.

As dusk approaches, these determined pipeline opponents and self-styled environmentalists line up their vehicles so they can form a caravan. The purpose is to drive along the Seneca Trail, otherwise known as State Route 219, and blink their lights in solidarity with a man who, for nearly 80 days, has been perched in a tree atop nearby Peters Mountain.

In return, he shines a single light from his aerie to the waiting throng below, as if to say, "I'm still here and thanks for the support."

After more than a dozen court fights, and frequent legal setbacks, the group takes solace in this weekly ritual. It represents a doing of something, a physical manifestation of their outrage that an energy company has, mostly through eminent domain, taken their land to build a trench that they say will despoil the fragile beauty of Monroe County and quite possibly poison an enormous aquifer from which they draw their drinking water.

The litigation against the developer, MVP, continues, but so does the prep work for construction. Staging areas have popped up along the Scenic Byway and MVP has stated publicly it is confident it will meet its November deadline, despite the continued opposition. 

The company points to a 300-mile corridor it carved from the wilderness over the winter and into the spring. Thousands of trees were felled to make room for a 125-foot-wide right-of-way. 

Except for one parcel hard by the Appalachian Trail where a lone holdout still sits.

His fate has yet to be determined. But inevitability clings to the slopes of Peters Mountain like early-morning fog.

And determination, however heartfelt, has a way of bowing in the end to economics. 

 

 

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