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Mass Evictions At Morehead Trailer Park Reveal Human Cost of Economic Development

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Samantha Morrill
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Ten days before the deadline to vacate the North Fork Trailer park, more than 30 mobile homes remained on the property adjacent to Interstate 64 and the bypass that runs through Morehead. Many of the trailers were vacant, but several were still homes to people who had lived there for years.

In March, residents were given official notice that the land the North Fork Trailer Park sat on was being sold to a developer and they had to move by April 30.

Mindy Davenport lived at North Fork for 25 years, now she has nowhere to go when the deadline arrives. She also doesn’t have anywhere to take all of her belongings, so many items ended up on the side of the road.

“A lot of people have done that. And I’m just to the point where it’s like, where am I going to take it? What do I need a cake plate for? Cause I’m not going to have anywhere to have Christmas at. So, why bother?” said Davenport.

Like many others, Davenport’s mobile home is too old to move into a different trailer park, but she said even if it wasn’t, she doesn’t have the money to move it. 

Sue Hamilton lived at North Fork for six years with her two daughters in a trailer that was paid off.

“Only thing I paid was $125 for the lot rent and utilities. So now I’m moving into an apartment that’s $950 with just two bedrooms and one bath, where this is three bedrooms and two baths. So we’re downsizing and it’s going to be a struggle,” Hamilton explained.

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Credit Samantha Morrill
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Mindy Davenport and Sue Hamilton pose in front of what remains of Hamilton's deck.

Hamilton said she had no choice but to sell her trailer, a storage building, and her favorite feature of her former home, the deck, which lay dismantled in the yard, covered by a tarp.

“All 26 boards of it. It was 12 by 16. And there’s very few people in this trailer park that won’t tell you the first thing they remember about me when they see me is ‘that’s that lady that had that nice deck.’ And they wished they could sit out on it,” said Hamilton.

Although Hamilton has already moved out of the trailer park, she still attends meetings and rallies held by the group Justice 4 North Fork.

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Credit Samantha Morrill
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The trailer where Justice 4 North Fork held their meeting.

A meeting that took place more than a week before the April 30 deadline was held in a trailer without a door. It was empty with the exception of a couple couches and a small table that held a laptop streaming a Zoom call. The group was energized at times, discussing the work they’ve done, but at other times, the mood was somber, almost desperate.

Current resident Penny Gozzard has nowhere to go when the deadline to move arrives. She apologized to the group for, as she put it, not being on her game.

“My job is in jeopardy because I’m not performing the way that I normally do and they see it. I’m not sleeping, I’m not eating. This has consumed me,” said Gozzard.

Justice 4 North Fork held protests at a Morehead City Council meeting, because the city passed a Tax Incremental Financing District in December. Residents said that move made the sale possible. They also protested at the office of Patrick Madden, the developer who is purchasing the land North Fork Trailer Park sits on for a proposed mall.

Rowan County Judge Executive Harry Clark said in a statement, “At the heart of the issue, this is a private transaction between buyer and seller.” Patrick Madden also released a statement that read in part “I am hopeful the current long-time landlord will work with the existing residents to find reasonable relocation opportunities for all involved.”

Justice 4 North Fork has a list of demands including protection for tenants, respect and financial compensation. “All we’re asking for, really, is more time. Yeah, we’ve got a few other demands, but we know ain’t none of them going to happen. Just give us a little time to get out of here,” said Penny Gozzard.

The North Fork Trailer park was a place where friendships were made and people took care of each other. Now that they are losing that community, people are worried about their friends and neighbors.

“Miss Mindy, yes. And Miss Penny. Very, very worried about those two. They’re going to be homeless. And that ain’t right. By no means. No,” said Sue Hamilton. 

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Samantha is WEKU's All Things Considered Host and also reports on news of interest in the commonwealth. Sam is a graduate of Morehead State University and worked for MSU's Public Radio Station WMKY.
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