Wilkes students cleanup Centralia, restore history

Gabby Glinski, Staff Writer

On  Saturday, 12 Wilkes students traveled to Centralia for a day of cleanup volunteer work. Approximately 45 volunteers gathered at the Centralia Municipal building to help with the elimination of trash and debris from the Centralia coal mine area.
Robert Hughes, coordinator of the project and Executive Director of the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR), welcomed Wilkes University with enthusiasm. He stated that the mission of the project was to clean trash and debris out of Centralia’s wooded areas to restore its rich history. EPCAMR’s mission is to stop dumping in abandoned mines and to establish a base for other groups to take charge in their communities.
Wilkes University students donned orange vests and headed out into the abandoned town of Centralia to collect trash and debris. With the help of EPCAMR, the Wilkes students collected an approximate 250 tires from the dumps.
Lara McQue, a sophomore, stated about the cleanup, “I want to let people know what the town used to look like, not what it looks like now.”
The materials, supplies, and refreshments needed for the project were fundraised and donated by outside sources. Bridgestone Tires 4ward helped represent the project. Bridgestone Tires 4ward’s mission is to eliminate the amount of tires in dumps by recycling old tires. The approximate 250 tires are going to be processed through Bridgestone’s program.
Recent film graduate Joe Sapienza II’s short documentary, “Centralia, America’s Lost Town” helped fuel the cleanup of Centralia. Hughes stated about the documentary’s impact on the project, “We are trying to make a big dent in cleanup of this historical area. This area is so rich in history; we could make 10 documentaries here.”
Centralia is a former coal mining town in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. In 1962, a fire started underground in the coal mines from a suspected accidental trash burning. The fire caused the town’s population to slowly dwindle down from 2,700 in 1980 to 7 in 2013. As of this year, the fire is suspected to burn for another 250 years.