Carmichaels and Waynesburg residents have been getting unexpected knocks on their doors since around the first week of May.

It is all part of an effort by the Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ) and an allied organization, Pittsburgh United, to inquire what residents think about the economic condition of Greene County and what they’d like to see in the future.

“This is the first time we’ve worked on some important economic issues in Greene County,” said Sarah Martik, CCJ campaign manager. “We’re going door to door trying to trying to get people’s honest opinion on the economy and the future of Greene County and plan to publish our finding sometime in the future.”

Veronica Coptis, CCJ executive director, said there is a link between economic and environmental issues.

“Our organization is concerned with many issues including economic justice and environmental justice,” she said. “When you live in a place like Greene County, you can’t work on one issue without considering the other. They’re both tied together.”

According to Martik, one of the reasons CCJ is such a strong proponent of Ryerson State Park is that the park holds an economic potential for tourism. Coptis said more recreational options like improving the trails and building boardwalks into the wetlands will only increase tourism.

Information on Ryerson and its future will be the focus of the 13th annual DRYerson Festival, scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m on Saturday, June 22 at the park’s number two pavilion.

Upon arrival, attendees are asked to check in at the registration table to be entered in the door prize drawings. Acoustic guitarist Bree Otto will provide musical entertainment, and games are planned for both children and adults. Complimentary picnic and cookout-style food and drinks, including snow cones and cotton candy, will be served. To avoid as much waste as possible, reusable food service will be provided by Our Children Our Earth: Toys, Silks & Eco-Goods.

Attendees are encouraged to explore the park and its many hiking trails. Pets are also welcome provided they are kept on a leash and don’t disturb others.

Visit CCJ’s Facebook page @coalfieldjustice to learn how to preregister for the DRYerson Festival. Those who want to volunteer at the event or who would like more information should phone CCJ at 724-229-3550.

“Each year, the festival draws between 75 and 100 people, and we’re hoping for even more this year,” Coptis said.

For years, CCJ and other interested groups, such as the Izaac Walton League of Greene County, have engaged in an ongoing fight to save Ryerson’s streams from mining activity, especially after the park’s 62-acre Duke Lake was drained.

The problem of the safety of Duke Lake’s dam was first noticed in the early summer of 2005 when officials from the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) reported the dam was leaking and had to be removed for public safety. By August, the DCNR pumped water from the lake and removed the dam, which resulted in the loss of thousands of fish.

Efforts to restore the dam halted in 2015 when the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) claimed the land on and around the former dam was still shifting due to longwall mining.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the enactment of Act 54, the amendment to the state’s Bituminous Mine Subsidence and Land Conservation Act of 1965, which calls for the protection of structures, including buildings, homes and cemeteries.

According to the DEP website, the 1994 amendment, known as Act 54, included provisions for protection and restoration of water supplies affected by mining and additional remedies for structural damage. It also required regular assessment of the underground mining regulatory program.

“Each day in June, (CCJ) is posting entries on its Facebook page on how or how not Act 54 is working,” Coptis said. “The act was passed on June 22, 1994, and we’re holding this year’s DRYerson Festival on June 22 as well.”

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