Fracking protesters gather in Mansfield park

MANSFIELD — Bill Baker of Frack Free Ohio wants to get the word out about hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.

He even brought a giant trash can to bring home the point, with a sign reading “Ohio: America’s Largest Trash Can.”

On Saturday, a small crowd mostly opposed to fracking filled Central Park shortly after 1 p.m.

“This is a global event to call for a ban on fracking until we can determine how safe it is,” Baker said.

Food and Water Watch and Frack Free Ohio convened for the Global Frackdown Rally for Rights, held in conjunction with similar rallies in other cities. Members highlighted environmental and public health risks they say are associated with fracking, in which water and chemicals are injected at high pressure into the ground to break up shale and release gas and oil.

Jan Kennedy, of Washington Township, attended the event, and proudly showed her sign, “Don’t Frack Ohio,” to motorists on Park Avenue West.

Kennedy said she has been fighting fracking for more than a year.

“I just think we’re trying to get the truth out,” she said. “Our Washington Township trustees passed a moratorium on the injection wells in Washington Township, which is awesome.”

Jack Shaner, of the Ohio Environmental Council, talked about Mohican Country and the fall colors that soon will attract people from throughout Ohio.

He listed scenic sites in and around Richland County with native and rare plants.

“It’s part of the real Ohio,” he said. “It’s part of the honest-to-goodness Ohio that looks the same way as when the Mohicans first gazed their eyes upon it.

“Unlike a lot of Ohio, it’s not been improved, it’s not been chiseled or mined or drilled or straightened or flattened out or paved over. It’s part of the real Ohio, and there’s not too many of those places left, so we need to protect them,” he said. He listed Fowler Woods, Brown’s Bogg and the Clear Fork Gorge as places deserving protection.

“We’ve got to protect places like Mansfield, Ohio, a good place to raise a family, start a business, enjoy life, ” he said.

“As you all know all too well, your future here in Mansfield is threatened by this black gold rush, this mania, for this shale gas. People think it’s going to be this economic nirvana. This isn’t just some idle threat,” he said.

Shaner talked about brine, the waste water leftover from fracking.

“This is like six or seven times saltier than the ocean and it’s got a witches brew of toxics in there,” he said, citing a report from the State of Pennsylvania on radioactive materials coming to Ohio for disposal.

Mansfielder John Makley, of the Coalition to Protect Ohio’s Parks, said legislators’ goals to drill in Ohio’s state parks is a battle.

“The battle we’re here to wage against fracking is a battle not just against a process, but it’s a legislative process that has been purchased by those with the most money. We are here waging a battle to win back our right to determine what kind of frack can be put down a hole in our community,” he said.

Makley said more importantly, it’s a battle to save the planet.

The youngest speaker was Francesca Alguire, 9, of Tuscarawas County.

“I like clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and clean soil to grow a garden,” she said from the gazebo.

“I understand we are all gathered here today to demand that people in charge of important things listen to us and do more to protect us,” she said. “I deserve to feel safe. We all deserve to feel safe.”
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