Critics say landfill desecrates Alabama march site
LOWNDESBORO, Ala. - Foes of a planned garbage dump near a stretch of Alabama highway where thousands of blacks staged a famous voting-rights march said yesterday the landfill would desecrate a site that symbolises freedom.
Opponents said they are mounting a legal challenge to try to block the proposed landfill, which received final approval this week from Alabama environmental officials.
The landfill would allow up to 1,500 tonnes of household waste to be dumped each day near the historic Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights trail on U.S. Highway 80 in central Alabama.
It was on this trail in 1965 that civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. led a 50-mile (80-km) march to demand that blacks be allowed to register to vote in the then-deeply segregated state.
The march occurred two weeks after state troopers viciously beat black protesters in Selma, Alabama in a confrontation that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The path taken by the march participants was designated as a national historic trail in 1997.
"We would be desecrating the number one trail in America. This trail stands for freedom," said John Nichols, the mayor of Lowndesboro, Alabama. The proposed 600-acre (245-hectare) landfill site lies just outside the tiny towns boundaries.
"We have filed suits in circuit courts in Montgomery County and Lowndes County to ask for a stay," said Nichols, who noted that the vast majority of the 200 black and white residents in the town were opposed to the landfill. Nichols is white.
Opponents of the plan maintained that the presence of dump trucks hauling garbage along U.S. 80 would be an eyesore that could keep tourists away from the trail.
Supporters of the landfill have argued that it would jump-start the economy of Lowndes County, one of the poorest areas in Alabama.
The racially mixed Lowndes County Commission, which approved the landfill in 1998, has estimated that it could generate between $350,000 and $500,000 a year in county fees and provide 12 to 15 full-time jobs.
Commission officials were not immediately available for comment yesterday. The plan they have approved said the site, which is due to be operated by Alabama Disposal Systems, would not be visible from the voting rights trail.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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