More than a dozen people are making their way from Bath to Buckingham Counties this week along the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – hoping to raise awareness of the environmental damage that project could cause. Sandy Hausman caught up with the group in the George Washington National Forest.
Stopping for the night around a glowing camp fire two musicians from Richmond treated the group to songs inspired by Virginia’s natural beauty.
“Holy river take me back in time,” sang vocalist Laney Sullivan to the mournful chords of her harmonium.
She and partner Jameson Price joined the 150 mile walk because they fear the Atlantic Coast pipeline will damage the environment.
“I’m really concerned about the impact of the pipeline on the James River watershed," Sullivan says. "Being from Richmond, the James River is my drinking water.”
Melissa Wender of Charlottesville felt the danger deeply as she climbed up and down mountain trails.
“What I wish is that there were more people with us learning and seeing, ‘Oh my God, this ridge is extraordinarily narrow and steep,' and to put a 150-foot flat spot to work on, you will need to remove 30 feet of mountain ridge and dump it down the side," she says. "When you’re standing there, you can really picture what a really crazy project this is.”
For Carrie Gerstantis, who also lives in Charlottesville, the thought of a pipeline being built for profit was equally disturbing.
“I personally felt like I needed to bear witness to what we have," she explains. "It’s beautiful, and to think that somebody else’s for-profit corporation is going to benefit, and then some of the extracted resources are going to be exported. it’s sickening.”
And Charlottesville’s Lee White felt bad for families who lost their fight to keep Dominion Energy from taking their property through eminent domain.
“We had the kick off rally on Saturday afternoon in Bath County," he recalls. "The Bratton family has been on that land since 1764 . The pipeline is supposed to cut through their land, go straight up the ridge, taking the top of the mountain off, and over the other side, and their spring water comes down from that mountain.”
Pam Mendosa, who lives near Nellysford, could definitely relate and was glad to support the property owners she met en route.
“It was going through my farm for about a mile, and then the route changed," she says. "While it was no longer in my backyard, I wanted to tell people out here that they weren’t alone, that it’s in everybody’s backyard. It’s in Virginia.”
Elizabeth Gay expressed gratitude for the hospitality shown as marchers camped on private property each night.
“The hosts have been amazing people – so generous of spirit, so organized to make our stay special. This couple has been allowing us to go in and use their shower. We do have a porta-potty, but we just finished nine miles today, and you really want a shower. It’s been amazing”
And Deborah Kushner agreed, the locals were kind.
“We’ve been met with graciousness, homemade cookies along the way, many smiles, many thumbs up. A couple of people we’ve had to break the news to that there is a pipeline coming to their area, which is shocking that they hadn’t known.”
The group will arrive in Buckingham County on Sunday, July 2nd in time for church. After that, trucks carrying food and the port-a-potty head home, but some hearty souls plan to continue walking the line into North Carolina.