It’s hard to describe the feeling. I’m standing in the northern most parts of Lancaster County near the Berks County line. A truly beautiful section of rural Pennsylvania. It’s beginning to get a more mountainous feel than the rolling hills near eastern lancaster county where I live. It’s getting close to sunset and I’m snapping a few pictures of some horses in a pasture. The aged rusty wire fence ads to the rustic rural feel. The insects provide a natural symphony only interrupted by the sound of my camera shutter. There are also a few bullfrogs providing bass alongside the pond behind me. It’s the type of pond you would love to find in the morning surrounded by low fog with a mountain full of trees rising in the background and bursting with autumn colors.

Some of the shots I captured that evening were postcard worthy. Not necessarily because of anything special I did, but simply because this spot is an idyllic rural scene in all directions. Except for one very startling exception, directly in the middle of all this beautiful scenery lies the footprint of the Sunoco Mariner East Pipeline.

Whether you are for or against the pipeline, there is no argument about whether this project has impacted the landscape. Such a small pipeline requires a considerable swath of land be cleared to make way for the equipment and crew. From this point of view it is particularly startling as you see the path dip slightly into the valley and then ascend sharply up the side of the mountain to a sky color treeless void surrounded by lush forest,

I’ve made multiple drives up there over the last month, but I’ve never seen anyone else taking pictures or even stopping to take a look. I personally know homeowners in the area who are outraged, but you definitely get the sense that the pipe is in the ground and the deed is done, at least for this round. For Sale signs are around the corner on every road. I instantly wanted to show these images to the world, but wasn't sure what to say. Seemed a little late to say much of anything. Take a look ...

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On the opposite side of the County dozens of protesters are gearing up as the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline crew has begun breaking new ground every day. Construction is currently gearing up to go under the Conestoga River from the property that was previously a hub of the pipeline opposition. There is really no better example of the determination to install this pipeline no matter what. They’de prefer to hit right at the core of the opposition and silence them quickly. Don’t worry, if anything goes wrong with the drilling fluids down by the river, they’ve got around a mile and a half buffer to stop the flow before it reaches the Susquehanna River. Nothing to worry about here.

I greatly appreciate the passion and dedication of the protesters, some of whom have been fighting this pipeline for over two years. Just this Monday 23 protesters were arrested for standing in front of a backhoe just outside Columbia, PA. For most, the courts have ruled against them and they have no other options available. It takes courage to believe so strongly in something that you would stand in front of heavy machinery, but as you would expect the police simply came and arrested everyone and the machines went back to work. Which left me to question what could be done when the powers-that-be seem so determined. Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Organization describes "bearing witness" as cowardice, but I'm afraid that may be the only legal recourse available at this point. 

What was even more discouraging was some of the public's comments to news articles on Facebook. There was an abundance of hatred, negativity, and apathetic ignorance. It's literally sad to see it spelled out. Every time a story comes out about protesters, all too eager critics mock the protesters because they aren't at work. While also using the opportunity to stir-up unrelated left vs right political cat fights of course. You're typical visit to Facebook land with many folks shouting out their beliefs without necessarily going into details like facts and reality. The loudest opposition has been from those who have been directly affected by this pipeline, but what about the next one and the next one after that. Will one or two eventually run through your yard?

As can be expected with every contested development project, attention will be given to the protests in opposition, some of the construction woes, and the unforeseen problems that will certainly come later. But what about the land itself? This is a point in history where the land will be changed forever. While it may be too late to save these lands, what about the next pipeline?

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Grand L.A.N.D.S. Project

Aside from the rather speculative arguments around environmental impacts and politics there is one thing for certain, the construction of a pipeline will most certainly impact the land and change the landscape in a very permanent way.
— Seth Dochter

That’s the feeling I felt standing in the footprint of the Mariner East in the northern end of the county. That’s the feeling I felt driving 45 minutes down a single lane logging road with no exits, just to see my first drill pad site. That feeling really punched me in the gut last week when I came across two lawns staked out for destruction in the coming weeks to make way for the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. Seeing the stakes made it eerily obvious what was about to be destroyed. I wish I had stopped at one particular lawn for a photo, but another car was behind me. The next time I make it down there, the deed might already be done. That’s when I really felt the sting.

Panoramic view of a field along Witmer Road. All the way to the left you can see the area where crews are preparing to dig. If you look closely in this photo you can see the pink flags marking the path of the pipeline.

One of the things that drew me into 360 photography was the idea that we could revisit places that had changed over the course of time in a really immersive way. Throughout the course of collecting uncountable amounts of photos and videos from the area over the last few years I have also been infatuated with the idea of how to archive and make that imagery available in a meaningful way.  While the protesters on the ground and in the courts are giving it their all, the bright pink markers have already mark the future path of destruction in Conestoga. Passing the scene feeling discouraged my creative side forged all of these thoughts and feelings into an idea.


 

The monkeywrench has been described by long time environmentalists as your talent. Unlike traditional monkey wrenching environmentalists I’m not going to be sabotaging machinery. I’ve spent years now avoiding exploring awesome abandoned places because I don’t want to be arrested for trespassing, so standing in front of machinery is also not something I want to engage in. A lot of the focus is currently on the construction site, but I think what would be best is for me to do what I do, and that’s capture the beauty of Lancaster County.

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Polite Conservationists leave no mark, saved for the scars on the land that could have been prevented had they held their ground
— David Brower - Sierra Club

Specifically, I would like to capture the path of the pipeline before and after it comes through. These lands are about to be altered for at least the course of my lifetime. I want to give as much effort as I can to capturing the undeveloped land in the coming weeks so we will at least have the ability to go back and see what once was. We will also be able to use it as a visual representation of the pipeline process to inspire future communities who have lawyers knocking on their doors.

The rush will be to capture as much as possible before it’s gone, capturing the aftermath will be easy. I’ve already begun this mission to utilize the beautiful fall foliage while it’s available. There is much more I could be doing, but I need some support.    

How you can help?

There are a number of tools I would like to access to help this idea have the greatest impact. For all intent and purposes we can define this project as a survey of the area before it’s altered. While I already have the camera equipment to generally capture the area, I would like to rent (or purchase when justifiable i.e. used items) some specific equipment for specific applications such as long distance and macro lens attachments to capture wildlife and plantlife. Everything from gas money to batteries is an expense, but I see a learning opportunity that extends beyond the coming months. With the machines already digging away at the ground bit by bit, time is of the essence.

I won’t just be capturing for archive purposes, these images will be going out every day to bear witness to the project as it unfolds. There are other photographers on the scene to bear witness to the protest, so I mostly just want to share what’s happening to the land itself. I think that's a story that needs to be told on it's own right. For all of the environmental documentaries out there, you rarely get to see the land before it's been destroyed.

While I’m always willing to put my own money in the game, I just don’t have enough for as urgent and important as this issue is.  As I’m typing this the backhoes have been digging away. So I’m humbly reaching out to my fans and asking you to help me get this idea going right now!  

I’ve set up a special donate button below. Please give as much or as little as you can. Currently I’m looking to raise about $900 to get the ball rolling a little further, but every dollar will go towards capturing this area before it's altered forever. In the meantime, I will continue to capture and share with what I have because there is no time to lose.

After you donate be sure to check out the links on my thank you page and subscribe to our newsletter. I'll be keeping you up to date with the progress of this campaign here on the blog and across our social channels.

 
 

More Ways To Show Your Support ...

Be sure to like Grand Lancaster and Lancaster Against Pipelines on Facebook

Share your Perspective with the Grand Lancaster Society Facebook Group ...

Use the Hashtag #grandlands on your pics

More news to come!!

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