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Community Resource Mapping

Clear Fork Couple

The couple’s home is like a treasure chest of homemade crafts.  He made nearly all of the wooden furniture (shelves, bookcases, and t.v. stands) out back in his wood shop.  While giving a tour of his house, he takes his guests into the bathroom to show his handiwork, where he tells about the different grains and types of wood.  Her skills extend from painting, to quilting, sewing, and making dolls—many of which she has stored away in her sewing room, equipped with sewing machines, spools and spools of thread, and other crafting tools.

After growing up in Clear Fork and serving in the army, he moved to Cleveland, where he met her (she grew up in Tennessee).  Together they moved back to Clear Fork and raised three sons.  In recalling the good old days—when kids would play in the streets and everyone knew everyone—they wish for the return of activities and small businesses.  Central to this would be the return of a larger population, they explain.  People left the area after the 2001 flood, and it has been hard to return to Clear Fork because of insurance standards regarding building in a flood plain.

The key to repopulating their community is the development of a new industry and the return of the local schools.  He expresses that the workers are here, ready and able, so long as some other sort of industry comes in.  A new industry—auto, timber, or steel—would both provide alternatives and compliment the coal industry.  However, nobody wants to move back to Clear Fork when the schools are so far away.  While the elementary school is close, middle and high school students must travel too far.  In particular, they lament the loss of the activity bus, which used to transport students to and from after school athletics.  Without the activity bus (and fewer after school programs), students must return home briefly at the end of the day, only to be driven all the way back by their parents.

The loss of the activity bus and the consolidation of schools are part of a larger problem that the couple identifies: the disappearance of services.  Essential components of a well-rounded economy and convenient life style are schools, stores, and health care.  If the schools, clinics, and other services were to return, there would be more incentive for people to live in Clear Fork, repopulating and rebuilding what has been lost.

The couple seems to believe that their community can change for the better, so long as major structural changes are made.  With a redistribution of taxes and a new emphasis on employing and educating the local people, industries could provide the jobs and support to rebuild this local economy and community.