Emfinger proposes coal mine historical park

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Montevallo Coal Mine Company was one of the first established in Alabama. The company operated for 110 years in the small community Aldrich.

Commemorating that rich history has been a life&8217;s work for Henry Emfinger.

Emfinger introduced his newest venture to members of the Shelby County Commission recently.

&8220;Shelby County could capitalize on its coal mining history,&8221; Emfinger said.

Emfinger sees a bright new opportunity in turning the Aldrich community into a coal mine historical park.

He pointed to similar parks in both Alabama and across the country which have been successful in drawing tourists.

Emfinger said the trails need to be cut and the area needs to be cleaned.

&8220;I have blazed trails up to the old mine, but they need to be clear-cut and made walkable,&8221; he said.

He invited members of the commission to &8220;come see what potential there is for a Coal Mine Historical Park&8221; at the former location of Montevallo Coal Mine Company.

&8220;Based on the tourist attendance in other areas,&8221; the coal mine could turn into a &8220;gold mine,&8221; he said.

Emfinger noted that Shelby Ironworks Park is the only historical park in the county while Jefferson County sports two, Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park and Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark Park. Bibb County, he said, has Brierfield Ironworks Historical State Park.

&8220;These historic parks are drawing thousands of tourists each year to Alabama,&8221; he said.

Emfinger said the development of a Coal Mine Historic Park would make sense as the county is spending money to develop other types of parks to draw visitors and improve the quality of life for area residents.

&8220;We have the potential to showcase our first big and most important industry which began in the 1830s when coal was discovered in the Montevallo area,&8221; Emfinger wrote in his proposal.

He said the former property of the Montevallo Coal Mine Company is now owned by private citizens.

That property still features foundations, walls and buildings of the coal company as well as the 1928 bathhouse, the fan house for ventilation and the powder house (for storing the dynamite used to break up the coal).

In addition, Emfinger said, the portal of the slope mine is still visible.

In the mining camp of Aldrich, there are many camphouses still standing as well as the Company Store, the mine&8217;s offices, the slate dump and a convict cemetery