Q&A with Denise Dennis – Part II

Last week we took a deeper look at the history of the Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust and caught a brief glimpse of how the decision to lease the land came about.

Today’s post will dig much deeper into the research processes and the decision that M. Denise Dennis reached regarding her family’s farm as she tells it in her own words.

DD —    I wanted to learn how or whether the industry understand and respect landowners, I wanted to hear from the industry about why the natural gas drilling,  horizontal hydraulic fracturing, and waste disposal are safe and/or what they are doing to make it safe. I want to be as well informed as possible because the industry is now, not only my neighbor, but a part of my life.

DD —  The more I learned, the more I began to realize that natural gas is an accepted source of energy and one of fuels that will help the US to become “energy independent.”  I learned that natural gas is one of the alternatives to oil available to us.  I learned that the Rendell administration, the incoming Corbett administration, and the majority of the PA state legislature perceived natural gas drilling as an economic opportunity for the Commonwealth and fully supported it.  It seemed to me that the issue wasn’t whether or not natural gas drilling would continue in Pennsylvania, but how to make sure the drilling was safe.Because I’d read and heard so much on the anti-fracking side of the issue, I thought it was important to learn directly from those most closely involved with natural gas drilling.  I knew that the subterranean pipes have to be contiguous and thought that, since Cabot has leased most of the land near the Dennis Farm, I should talk to Cabot.  In a sense, I believed Cabot was in the best position to help me protect the farm.

DD —  I wanted Cabot to understand why the farm is significant to me, the region and our nation.  I wanted Cabot to understand the farm’s extraordinary history and why we are working to preserve it.  Our goal is to make it possible for the many, many people who’ve asked to visit the site to do so.  I wanted Cabot to understand that the Dennis Farm is priceless so they would be committed to protecting it.

DD —  My meeting with George Stark and view of the new drilling pads and safety features in June 2011 and my meetings with Dan Dinges in July 2011.  My meeting and with Dan Dinges in December 2011 is the meeting that made me feel comfortable about signing a lease.  From that meeting on, I looked forward without regret.

DD —  The farmhouse was damaged by Hurricane Irene and the roof collapsed.  Under the architect’s instructions, the exterior walls were braced to keep and a tarp was placed over the roof.  The plan is to gut the interior, salvage as much of the materials from the interior as possible, label and store them.  Then, based on the drawing the architect already prepared of the interior, we will reconstruct the interior re-purposing as many of the salvaged materials as possible.  We hope to work with a university to label the historic materials.  Already we have seen the 19th century wallpaper beneath the 20th century and boards cut with saws the pre-date the mid-19th century.

DD —  We used some of the funds from Cabot to pay for the stabilization of the house.  The funds are seed money and have given us a great boost.

DD —  I hope the grounds are safe, that the house if restored, the interpretive center completed and in operation, that visitors come to the site and learn from it.  I hope we have symposia and concerts on the lawn and that learning about the farm and my family teaches people from all over the US and the world what happens when people respect one another and learn to work together. My ancestors were African Americans in a community where black people were less than one-half of one percent of the population and they thrived.  Also, they fully embraced the promise of America and lived it–through several generations. As the first child of the seventh generation, this effort is personal for me. This is a legacy that was left to me and it is my legacy to the future.

Cabot continues to work closely with M. Dennis and we look forward to partnering with her for an event later this month in Philadelphia where she will be able to continue sharing the history of her farm and family.

Brittany Ramos

Brittany was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and attended Pennsylvania State University where she earned degrees in Public Relations and Psychology. She recently earned her Masters in Sociology from Sam Houston State University. Brittany works in the External Affairs for Cabot where she manages communications and outreach projects to community members, elected officials, media and online supporters.

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