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Resolution to save Trimble Co. cave clears committee
Cave might have been stop on Underground Railroad
, Courier Staff Writer
Friday, March 08, 2013 10:00 AM
A resolution urging Louisville Gas & Electric to preserve a Trimble County, Ky., cave with possible ties to the Underground Railroad passed through a committee on its way through the legislative process in Frankfort.
Kentucky Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, sponsored a House resolution asking LG&E to consider alternative locations for coal ash storage and take steps to preserve the historical significance of the location for future generations. House Resolution 78 was introduced to the House of Representatives and moved to the House's Committee on Tourism Development and Energy in February.
The resolution, discussed and approved Thursday in a committee meeting, waits to be voted on and read in a full House session by the end of the 30-day legislative session on March 30.
"I think it's important that the legislature make a statement because this is not the only site around the Commonwealth that has issues relating to it," Meeks said during the February committee discussion. "I think it's important that people outside the Commonwealth understand that the state legislature in Kentucky takes historic preservation seriously."
Proposed plans for LG&E's coal ash storage near the Trimble County Generating Station could destroy Wentworth Lime Cave, which might have been a hiding place or station along the Underground Railroad for slaves seeking freedom just across the Ohio River in Indiana.
"Private homes, churches and caves like this - this Wentworth Cave - were used to basically house people temporarily until they could get to another station, to another location, to another state," Meeks said during the February discussion. "These places have tremendous (historical) value."
Wentworth Lime Cave - located on LG&E property - has documented markings that Berea College professor and consultant Alicestyne Turley, who was hired by LG&E to research the cave for historical value, reviewed and determined to possibly have been inscribed by slaves or abolitionists.
House Resolution 78 asks LG&E to consider the history that might be destroyed for future generations should the cave be used for the coal ash storage and not saved as a historical location.
At the very least, the resolution asks LG&E to gather and preserve evidence so that future generations will have the opportunity of "learning about the historical and cultural significance" of the location.
Meeks, a state representative for District 42, wrote the resolution asking the state Legislature to show support for preservation of the Trimble County cave and other historical landmarks.
Two state representatives on the Tourism Development and Energy committee noted during the February discussion that the location sounded like a great location for tourism.
"It sound like something that would be good to host or increase our tourism," Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville, said.
Meeks noted that LG&E might not be open to that idea.
"But it's certainly something to consider," he said.
Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, also thought the area might be a good boost for area tourism.
"I'm very intrigued with the tourism opportunities here," King said. "Kentucky is so rich in history, and I just see this as being potentially a tremendous draw for a regional and national and international visitors."
Locally, Trimble County Fiscal Court magistrates already agreed at their February meeting to issue a letter showing their support of historical landmark preservation in Trimble County - including the Wentworth Lime Cave, should researchers determine the landmark to be of historic value.
Several groups look to trace the historical connections of the cave to the area, including state historical organizations and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps continues to look into the cave's historical significance before approving a wetlands destruction permit for the LG&E landfill project. There is no projected timeline for the investigation or permit approval process at this time.
Several options to preserve the cave might need to be investigated should additional research show that the cave is in fact an historic property. All groups involved would need to work together to meet requirement of the law for historic properties in Kentucky, Corps project manager Kimberly Simpson said.
The law allows for avoidance of the historical site, minimization of impact to the historical site or mitigation, but the law does not require avoidance over minimization or mitigation, a release from the Corps said.
The House resolution had minor changes before being passed through the committee Thursday to include more language about tourism and cultural values of the site, Meeks said during the committee meeting.
"I'm a big history guy," committee chairman Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, said in February. "I think it is very important to be visionary going forward and to preserve those lands."
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