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Jacobs Creek Watershed Association receives $2,000 matching grant

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:20 p.m.

The Jacobs Creek Watershed Association has joined forces with local author and historian Cassandra Vivian to preserve the area's coal and coke heritage.

Together they have secured a grant to help begin that process.

“The history of our region is coal, and there are very few things in this area to celebrate that,” said Vivian, director of the Coal Mine and Coke Oven Reclamation Project.

The project's goal is to locate, research and uncover the mines and coke ovens located along Mt. Pleasant Road to Broadford Road and along state routes 819 and 981 from Standard through Mammoth and beyond.

“The coal mines followed the creeks. Then the railroads followed the coal mines, and the roads followed the railroads, so you have a natural driving tour if you created something worth seeing,” Vivian said.

Where it is feasible, the group will clear foliage and other debris from around mine entrances and remaining coke ovens and maintain them, she said.

Signs will be erected that will provide historical information about uncovered mines wherever possible.

In the future, project developers plan to rebuild the mine entrances, erect an honor roll and create a small guide to the mines, Vivian said.

Vivian said she has been researching local mines for several years and was inspired to create the project by the work Mt. Pleasant Township's board of supervisors completed at the Mammoth Mine.

She added that she has been encouraging local residents to respect and honor the industry that helped build the country.

While the project is different than the kinds of initiatives the Jacobs Creek Watershed Association normally undertakes, the group was very interested in the project when Vivian approached them with it, said Patricia Miller, the association's executive director.

“Although we usually do stream restoration, we are very interested in preserving the history of the watershed,” she said.

A $2,000 mini-grant was recently awarded to the project from Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area of Homestead.

The grant is funded by the state Department of Conservation & Natural Resources' Bureau of Recreation & Conservation.

“Our mission is to preserve the industrial heritage of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and, certainly, coal is an important part of that heritage,” said Jeffrey T. Leber, vice president and chief operations officer of Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.

“We are interested in preserving it and letting people know about it,” he said.

Vivian said the project's first phase will focus on completing a portion of the mines in the plan. The hope is to eventually complete them all, she said.

The current work will be conducted at Bridgeport, which is located southeast of Mt. Pleasant Borough.

The Bridgeport area contains five former H.C. Frick Company coal mines and coke ovens named Bessemer, Star, Buckeye, Hazlett and Mullen.

The historic Braddock Road cuts through the heart of the area, as well as the now-defunct trolley route and Shupe Run.

The Coal and Coke Trail runs near several of the mines and coke ovens.

Vivian said the grant is a 50 percent matching grant, so the group is currently trying to secure the $2,000 match from an outside organization or through individual contributions.

While waiting for the funds to be secured, she has begun the research for the project.

“We cannot begin cleanup until after the fall foliage is down. If we do it then, it will be easier, and then one more time in the spring should take care of most of it,” she said.

Those interested in participating in the Coal Mine and Coke Oven Reclamation and Preservation Project and similar projects are asked to contact Vivian at 724-542-4949 or

Linda Harkcom is freelance writer.

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