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Community Resource Mapping

Lonnie Burnside

Lonnie Burnside lives near the mouth of Rock Creek holler. In warm weather one can see him riding his bicycle to visit neighbors, wearing a yellow hat that reads “I love Jesus.” On Sundays you might catch him preaching or singing at the Rock Creek Chapel.

Born in Rock Creek in April 1948, Lonnie says he's had a good life. He graduated from Marsh Fork High School in 1968 and has worked in timbering, coal mining, and services. He timbered for Hamer Lumber Company in Edwight for six years after high school. He mined coal underground for Beckley Coal in Glen Rogers for five years and worked at the Pinecrest dairy for six years before returning to Rock Creek to care of his ailing mom, dad, and brother. His dad died in 2003, and his mother and brother in 2009. Left without family, his neighbors in Rock Creek come to check on him often and make sure that he is taken care of.

Lonnie says the Coal River Valley is a beautiful place to live but that mountaintop removal is tearing up the land and destroying home places. “I hate to see the mountain all torn up like that. Sometimes you can hear blasting from my house, around 3:30 to 4:00 and it is loud. And down at Peachtree where they're tearing the mountain up, boys I know live right up that creek there say rocks come off it when they blast. It's a good fishin' area. Used to be a good place to go swimming. And pretty girls. Used to have a nice high school down here but they took it away. Coal River Valley is a nice community and looks after each other. Yes sir.”

Lonnie thinks that the Coal River Valley needs more parks and a YMCA to make up for the lack of community gathering places. He thinks a YMCA would give kids and families something to do together. Lonnie went so far as to suggest the idea to the Raleigh County Commissioner, but he says the commissioner shrugged it off. He's glad about the new Marsh Fork Elementary School to be built near Rock Creek, which he's heard will include a park. He's glad that the elementary school is not moving out of the valley as the junior high and high school have.

He thinks that one of the main barriers to economic development is the county commissioner. He's excited about the new community groups like the Marsh Fork Community Association. He hopes they follow the example of the Sylvester Orgas Community Center and make a park. He raises his own vegetables to put food on the table.