Something really special happened in Centralia PA on Saturday, October 25, 2014. On this bright autumn day, a group of eager volunteers came together to help cleanup what remains of the town.
The Centralia Cleanup Day was organized and led by the duo of Joe Sapienza II and Bobby Hughes. The idea for it started last April when Sapienza was shooting footage for his documentary, Centralia: America’s Lost Town, in and around the borough. He and his crew noticed large quantities of trash and other debris that had been illegally dumped there. They wanted to do something to help.
Sapienza got in contact with Bobby Hughes of the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR).EPCAMR’s stated mission is to revitalize lands and waterways impacted by mining and mine drainage. The organization is especially important in areas like Centralia Pennsylvania, which have been heavily impacted by the mining industry.
Together, Sapienza and Hughes they put into motion an effort to organize the supplies and people necessary to cleanup the town. They even initiated an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to raise $600 towards the project.
On the day of the cleanup between 50 to 60 volunteers, including a group from Wilkes University, met at the Centralia Municipal Building. Tools, dumpsters, food, and drinks we main available to the crews.
Together teams of volunteers focused primarily on two areas of the borough: Railroad Avenue and Odd Fellows Cemetery. Odd Fellows Cemetery is actually near the spot where the Centralia PA mine fire began in 1962.
Almost immediately the volunteers began hauling trash and other debris from the forested areas around Centralia Pennsylvania. Eventually both two ton dumpsters, donated by Mostik Brothers Disposal, were overflowing and nearly 200 junk tires had been piled up!
The day, however, wasn’t just above the cleanup. Joe Sapienza II was hard at work shooting additional footage for an expanded version of his documentary. His goal is to the turn the original 17 minute piece, into a feature length film about Centralia, its residents, and the infamous mine fire.
His footage from the day included an interview with one of Centralia PA’s last residents, John Comarnisky. He no longer lives in town. Comarnisky stood in front of where his home once stood and told his story to Sapienza.
The Centralia journalist and author, David DeKok, also made an appearance. He led tours through the remains of the town during the day, describing the history of the mine fire and the residents who used to call Centralia home.
Catizone’s Coal Country Kitchen served a free, hot lunch to the entire cleanup crew. Given all the hard work, that helped to keep spirits high. Additionally, Tom Hynoski, the Centralia Borough Fire Chief, opened up the Municipal Building and assisted trash removal with a heavy excavator.
By the end of the day, the two areas that had been the focus of the cleanup effort were looking significantly better. EPCAMR plans to return to Centralia PA within the next few weeks to put up “No Dumping” signs to discourage further littering in the area.
Given the day’s success and the remaining trash to be removed from the town, another Centralia Cleanup is already being planned for 2015.