By Mary Gardner-Ruch, Photo by Steward Myers taken at the Encampment in West Almond
Pictured: Sally Campbell, ACNAG; Sheriff Larry Scholes, Sue Beckhorn, Allegany County Concerned Citizens and BANDITS, Fred Sinclair, Allegany County Water and Soil Conservation, Mary Gardner-Ruch, Allegany County Concerned Citizens Publicity Spokesperson and member of ACNAG, and Kevin Palmiter, Allegany County Watch and ACNAG.
On the morning of April 12th, Jim Lucey and I were guest speakers in Madonna Simon’s Twelfth grade English class. We were invited to speak on the Allegany County Dump Fight. The students were reading, “Linked Arms” by Tom Peterson and watched the Youtube documentary, “My Name is Allegany County”. There is a new Youtube video called, ”Bump The Dump-My Name is Allegany County-Nuclear Waste Lost!!”, produced by Environmental Coffeehouse. It celebrates the win 33 years later.
Jim headed up the Concerned Citizens of Allegany County and spent countless hours lobbying, working with our lawyer, David Seeger, and educating others about the flaws in storing high-level nuclear waste, as well as working on solutions to the problem. I was the publicity person at the time, ran the CCAC office in Belmont, and co-chaired the Wellsville/Scio Concerned Citizens with Cathy Babbage Weinman. I was also a member of ACNAG, the Allegany County Non-Violent Action Group, and was arrested in West Almond for preventing the Siting Commission access to the land.
As we walked out of the room, several students, called out, “You both are heroes”. I thanked them but in my estimation, there were hundreds of heroes and we just had a name to our faces. Our families sacrificed along with us as we spent so much of our time taking phone calls, at meetings, protests, and rallies, and putting together newsletters, flyers, posters, and so on. My children along with the Fiacco girls put together a dance and performed the “Bump the Dump” at a rally at the library and at the Night of Rage. My oldest daughter, Lisa, marched in Albany to the Governor’s mansion when she was in 6th grade.
The musicians, the support people who fed the protestors and held signs while they sang on the sidelines performed an important role. All of the Concerned Citizens groups worked hard to disseminate information and educate themselves. The members of ACNAG held training teaching nonviolent civil disobedience. Spike Jones went on to teach other groups in other States across the nation how it can be done successfully. People from all walks of life put their differences aside, worked together for a common goal, and won. Our County Sheriff at the time, Larry Scholes, was sympathetic to our cause. He did his job but he listened to our leaders and worked with us the best that he could to keep everyone safe and to allow us to continue with our protests.
Our County legislators, town and village leaders, fire departments, and civic organizations supported the cause. Reporters like Joan Dickenson and Katherine Ross were instrumental in keeping the public informed. In 1970 people came out in droves for the first Earth Day just as 1000’s showed up at the Belfast school for that first public presentation by the Siting Commission.
Our environmental issues today our enormous as we face climate change, water shortages, lack of access to clean drinking water, extinction of many of our wildlife, overpopulation, and more. What would it take to heal the divide that we are faced with today? We all share the same planet and have the same basic needs. Let the past be a path to our future. We can work together. Mother Earth is worth it.