JERSEY SHORE - Deb Eck and her two daughters have lived at the Riverdale Mobile Home Park for 10 years. On Friday, they went from residents to trespassers.
Bryn Mawr-based company Aqua PVR LLC. several months ago bought the 37-unit park so it can build a water withdrawal facility on the site to support the natural gas industry.
The company set June 1 as the deadline for residents to move out, but Eck said she will not move.
Supporters of residents of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park stand along Route 220 in Piatt Township on Friday morning, waving signs showing their displeasure with the gas industry and what has been going on at the now former mobile home park.
"It's not that we're not leaving," she said of a handful of residents who continue to live at the park. "We can't leave. We can't (afford) it."
The $2,500 the company offered residents as an incentive to move doesn't come close to covering the cost of moving Eck's trailer, she said.
On Thursday evening, with the deadline looming and the chance the company would begin sending work crews to the site Friday morning, supporters of residents, many of them anti-gas industry activists, converged on the park.
An interfaith prayer vigil, attended by about 40 people and conducted by Pastor Leah D. Shade, of United in Christ Lutheran Church in West Milton, was held Thursday afternoon.
On Friday morning, about 50 people were at the park, manning barricades blocking the two roads entering the park or holding signs along nearby Route 220 for motorists to read. Those at the barricades said they will block any construction crews who attempt to enter the park.
Flyers will be given to workers explaining the non-violent intentions of the supporters and outlining the group's demands, which include just financial compensation for residents and the right for those residents to remain, or in the case of those who already have moved, return to the park, according to Alex Lotorto, an activist from Pike County.
Some said they planned to stay as long as it took to convince the company to arrange a better deal for residents, even if they faced arrest in the process.
Wendy Lynne Lee, a professor at Bloomsburg University who belongs to an anti-gas industry organization called Occupy Well Street, said she and some of the others assembled at the park carried contact forms which they planned to give to police if they were arrested.
According to Shade, people came from Lancaster, New York state and New Jersey to support park residents.
"We don't want residents to feel abandoned," Shade said. "We're standing in solidarity with them."
Some were there because they opposed the natural gas industry. Many held anti-gas industry signs.
Elias Schewel said he came to the park to show support for its residents and express concern about the gas industry's impact on the environment.
"I'm here to support working Pennsylvania families who are not benefiting from the fracking boom," Schewel said. "People like these people are being displaced, but we are all going to face an uncertain future if our water resources are depleted."
"I'm here because I'm pretty upset about this community being torn apart by an industry I already don't agree with," said Kelly Finan, of Scranton.
"I give these people credit for coming up and helping us," said Denise Bliler, who lives at the park with her husband Scott.
Bliler said she cannot afford to move and hopes public outcry will spur the company to provide more financial assistance to park residents.
"I hope so - I really, really do," she said.
Some given time
Some residents, who were unable to meet the deadline but were still making an effort to move, were given extensions, according to Donna P. Alston, director of communication for parent company Aqua America. For the few residents who were not making an effort to move, the $2,500 moving incentive, as of Friday, was off the table, Alston said.
Bliler's neighbor Sam Lehman said he needed more time to move and was able to make an arrangement with the company that allowed him to collect the incentive.
"I called them a couple weeks ago and asked if they could give me a couple more days," Lehman said. "It's been kind of hectic here, wondering what to do and wondering where I'll get the money. They said they'd give me a couple days."
The condition of the park was in sharp contrast to the way it looked earlier this spring when children pedalled their bicycles on paved roads lined with aging but mostly well-kept mobile homes.
Many of the trailer lots were vacant. Some areas of the park were strewn with debris.
Some of the trailers that remained were gutted skeletons, stripped of their aluminum siding, windows, doors and porches.
Many were propped up on cement blocks with wood frames and wet, drooping insulation exposed.
Residents salvaged and sold as much of the trailers as they could in an effort to raise a little more cash, Eck said. "They've scrapped siding and water heaters. They're stripping the copper. Look at it now. It looks like a tornado hit it."
Attorney John E. Person III of North Penn Legal Services, who is representing two park residents, said he and two other attorneys are scheduled to meet with company officials on Tuesday in Bryn Mawr. That meeting was confirmed by Alston.
Person said he hopes the company will agree to better financial terms for past and present residents faced with moving expenses far in excess of the $2,500 offered by the company. Person said a moving company gave him a quote of between $6,000 and $8,000 to move a mobile home.
Alston said most of the people still at the park are making a good faith effort to leave. A very small number are making no effort at all, she said.
"We suspect we're going to have a couple die-hard holdouts," Alston said, adding that, as of Friday, those people are trespassing on company property.
From the beginning, the company has tried to work with residents in a compassionate way, offering the incentive and the services of a Realtor to assist with the move, she said.
"Most of the people have accepted the offer and are working with us and are going to be leaving," she said. "Of the diehards - we'll work within the bounds of the law to make sure they are off the property."
No decision has been made regarding how the holdouts will be removed from the property, Alston said, adding that company officials hope residents will leave on their own.
She said the company intends to take action "lawfully (and) peacefully"
Person said he does not believe arresting them is an avenue the company legally can take.
"I don't believe they can be arrested for being there," Person said.
The company is firm in its stance that all residents must leave the property, which is zoned for industrial use, Alston said.
"We're not in the mobile home park business. We're not in the property rental business," she said.
Construction is set to begin on the property soon, possibly Monday, Alston said.
Shade said supporters intend to stand their ground.
"I'm thinking people are probably in this for the long haul - until residents are comfortable with whatever is negotiated with (the company) or the police come," Shade said. "There are people willing to get arrested."