ELK GARDEN – “I'm so happy that everyone came to Elk Garden,” said mayor Marian Droppleman as visitors battled the rain and fog to attend the first Energy Expo.

By Ronda Wertman
Tribune Correspondent
ELK GARDEN – “I’m so happy that everyone came to Elk Garden,” said mayor Marian Droppleman as visitors battled the rain and fog to attend the first Energy Expo.
She recalled how Elk Garden had many coal mines and almost became the county seat. There were gas lights, a board walk for a sidewalk and railroads.
Elk Garden was also the site of the Davis Coal and Coke Company No. 20 mine where most of the men in town worked, and over 20 miners were killed in 1911. A monument to the miners stands at the town hall and was the setting for a memorial service Saturday.
“We need to remember those who have brought coal mining and energy where it is today,” said Droppleman.
“We are very proud of this day,” she added as visitors sat down for a miner’s meal of beans and ham, buttered potatoes, stewed tomatoes, pork and sauerkraut, corn bread and rolls.
She said a favorite meal of her grandfather’s was “coffee soakies,” but she knew they couldn’t serve that to guests at the expo.
“West Virginia is blessed that we are an energy rich state,” said Sen. Randy Smith, a veteran miner and chairman of the Energy Committee from the 14th District.
“As a state and a country we have to diversify our energy,” he said, noting the growth of wind power in the last five years as evidenced by looking at Corridor H.
Hydropower is another up and coming venture with talk of a plant at Jennings Randolph Lake Dam.
He said from Preston County to the west gas is booming and there are talks of a wood pellet plant in Keyser.
“The energy sector is what has brought West Virginia out of the gloom and doom. We should be a lot richer state than we are,” he added, noting that much of West Virginia’s coal and timber are being taken out of state.
“Elk Garden has a rich history with coal and timber,” Smith said, noting that as technology improves you have to adapt.
He noted that the technology in the mines is a lot different than what you see on TV. “The technology in the mines is unbelievable. We have better internet underground than most of West Virginia.”
“I started in 1979, it’s unbelievable how much it has changed since then,” said Smith who also brought along some items to be included in Elk Garden’s Miner’s Museum.
In the old days a canary in a cage was used to determine if a mine was safe for miners, while new technology monitors methane, oxygen and carbon monoxide.
John Lecky of the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce, reaffirmed West Virginia’s role as an energy producer noting that the state is second in the nation in coal, first in mine safety and fourth in all energy production.
He is hoping to give local students a closer look at the energy producers with tours of mines, Dominion Power and the Green Mountain Wind Farm all in the discussion phase.
As part of the expo, students at Elk Garden School were asked to create an art project based on the energy that they see.
“I was really excited to see the thought that went into the kids art work,” said Karen Lasure, an energy development specialist with the Office of Energy. “Kindergarten they get it.”
Among the items Lasure had on display were a variety of kits for the classroom stressing energy efficiency and conservation.
“This is near and dear to my heart,” she said. “My goal is to raise a crop of little engineers for the future.”
In addition to education, she also works on benchmarking state owned building showing how the building is doing compared to other buildings in energy consumption.
One of the newest forms of energy being tapped locally is wind.
Jacob Trevillian of the Green Mountain Wind Farm spoke of their 23 turbines.
“There’s a huge wind resource in this area,” he said noting that is also “huge potential for growth.”
“Our industry is really unique. We try to leave as small of footprint as possible,” he added.