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Community Resource Mapping

Shannon Dickens

Shannon was born and raised in the Coal River Valley, where he has lived for all of his 43 years. Shannon can often be found at his mother's home in Arnett, where he and three generations of Dickens spend evenings together over food and conversation. For him, the most important thing in life is family, citing memories of gatherings at his grandparents' homes every Sunday.

His mother and father Gerald both worked at Marsh Fork High School, his father as a teacher and assistant principal and his mother as secretary. After graduating Marsh Fork High School, Shannon pursued higher education at Concord Univeristy in Athens, West Virginia where he received a certificate in biology, physical science, math, and physics. Over the years, he held odd jobs as a paver, septic systems contractor, environmental maintenance, and substitute teaching. He now works for the Department of Environmental Protection in Special Reclamation, and is increasingly involved in efforts to diversify the local economy through the Marsh Fork Community Association He has also worked in Abandoned Mine Lands and inspected orchards for the Department of Agriculture.

Shannon thinks that the local economy is at an all time low, with little job diversity. The coal companies have had a terrible effect on community with no safety concerns for workers or community. The water in areas is toxic from coal slurry injections and impoundments. In his work with the DEP, he has seen three valley fills fail in rubble slides. He doesn't allow his daughter to go to Marsh Fork Elementary School, citing his concerns over Massey's sludge pond and processing plant next to it. He sees value in community provided by churches, such as his family's Arnett Chapel.

When Shannon thinks of what prosperity would look like in the Coal River Valley, he places emphasis on mom and pop businesses, agriculture, tourism and renewable energy generation. He would also like to see micro-hydro on the river. The nearby Hatfield-McCoy trail system for off road vehicles could expand into the upper Coal River area, bringing spinoff businesses. He says he'd like to put up 4 or 5 cabins himself if there was such a tourist attraction in the area. With proper reclamation, the land flattened by mountaintop removal mining could be made into orchards, and intact forests could be harvested of non-timber forest products, such as paw paws.

The two ideas he is most interested in pursuing are a canoe ride down the Marsh Fork of the Coal River near Posey-Saxon and a water-powered grist mill to grind corn. He hopes to work on both projects with his neighbor, Bill Lucas. Both would require minimal financing, and provide a few jobs while in the building phases and in keeping the canoe ride and mill running. He also hopes to put his agricultural knowledge to use by building a greenhouse in which to grow strawberries and tomatoes. He would use it as a local agriculture demo center for his neighbors.