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American Society of Landscape Architects


October 2005 Issue

Coming Clean
In the 1990s, it was hailed as a model of how art and landscape architecture could clean up acid mine drainage. Ten years later, has this park in Pennsylvania coal country panned out?

By Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA

Coming Clean
Courtesy AMD&ART

Bonnie Lucas is proud to be a coal minerís daughter. It says so on the back of the cardboard outhouse she is about to ride down Main Street in Vintondale, Pennsylvania. Along with the outhouse, she is participating in a parade to celebrate a grand opening that has been a long time coming: The strangely named AMD & ART Park just across Blacklick Creek is finally complete. She is proud because the coal miners built this little western Pennsylvania town and, one could argue, the industrialized status of the entire United States.

Perhaps too removed from coal mining by geography, age, and profession, I have generally held a different view. Coal mining, to me, is a dirty business: destroyer of mountains, killer of working men, fouler of rivers.

In 1997, I stood on the site in Vintondale that was to become the park. Its 35 acres, surrounded by a bend of the Blacklick, were covered in black dusty coal chips, streaked with channels of stained soil, and punctuated by 50-foot-tall piles of waste coal that were smoldering from the inside, turning their barren slopes into a swirling map of black and rust. The site was a wasteland, made that way by coal mining. I certainly would not have been proud.

But I was visiting the site with T. Allan Comp, a historian working to reenvision the regionís defunct coal- and rail-based economy, and Julie Bargmann, a landscape designer now well-known for remaking industrial landscapes. They had a different view. 

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