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Community Resource Mapping

Children Are the Future of the Coal River Valley
Ed Wiley, Rock Creek

Ed Wiley lives with his wife, Debbie Jarrell, on the banks of the Marsh Fork of the Coal River in Rock Creek. Though his family has roots in Horse Creek, just down river from Rock Creek, Ed grew up in Ohio and moved to the Coal River Valley in 1980.

For Ed, the best part of living in the Coal River Valley is the pace of life. “You can escape the rat race, and you have the freedom to do what you want. Rural life is what you make of it.” When he moved here in 1980, he realized that the valley's favorable climate and abundant natural resources made it a place where one could still make a living off the land – farming, hunting, and gathering food and valuable plants from the mountain forests.

Photo by Josh Graupera

Children and hope for the future are at the heart of Ed's vision for a prosperous Coal River Valley. For him, a good community is one that structures itself around the needs of future generations. One idea he has for a business to generate monetary wealth and foster community cohesion is an after school center that mixes aspects of a diner, arcade, and educational center. He would like to see it started near Liberty High School, so students could go there after school to hang out, eat good food, play games, and become invested in the future of the area.

He sees three barriers to achieving such a future in the valley. First, the increase of strip mining and mountaintop removal is robbing the area of its natural resources, and is undermining the prosperity of future generations in the valley. The second is lack of motivation “people don't think they can do for themselves, so they don't try.” Ed identifies this lack of motivation as stemming from the area's historic dependence on the coal industry for employment and the gradual disintegration of the valley's economy. According to him, there is a sense that things are getting worse and there isn't much to do about it. He has also experienced that the lack of financing options for new businesses holds back his, and his neighbors' ideas.

Ed is working to reinvigorate the Coal River Valley by raising awareness about mountaintop removal and working to diversify the local economy. He has brought national attention to Marsh Fork Elementary school, and helped to spark the resurgence of the national movement to abolish mountaintop removal and strip mining. More recently he has begun working with other Coal River Valley residents on the Sustainable Energy and Economic Diversification project.

-Andrew Munn, February 2010