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Copperhill renewed

Friday, December 14, 2007

Copperhill circa 1940Stories of renewal come from the strangest places -- like, for example, The New York Times' travel section. This is a good one, and well timed. I, for one, could use a little hope today.

Fifty years ago, the pretty hills and valleys of Copperhill, Tennessee, had been reduced to an unnatural desert. Logging had stripped the land of its trees, and gas produced by the mining that timber fueled had killed of all of the other green life. Residents had to sweep their front yards to keep them tidy, since there was no grass. The water was polluted and the air was smoggy.

When the mines closed in 1987, things seemed even more desolate for a while. Now, in addition to pollution and barren hills, the residents of Copperhill had to deal with increased unemployment. But sometime in the 90's, signs of renewal began to appear.

Coordinated mine cleanup efforts began in 2001: Reforestation, massive water purification systems and the removal of contaminated soil all began to bring life back to the hills. Today, there's wildlife in the fields and streams, and slowly but surely the people are returning too.

Although, come to think of it, they'll probably return a lot more quickly once they read this article in the Times.