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Two ex-mining towns try to change their fortunes

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Associated Press

ROCKY TOP, Tenn. (AP) - An experiment of sorts is taking place in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Tennessee, where two towns with a common heritage and a common problem are taking two very different approaches.

Both Briceville and Rocky Top were once bustling mining communities with stores, jobs and even opera houses. Today, Rocky Top's downtown is lined with vacant buildings and Briceville recently lost its only store.

In Briceville, a nonprofit group has funded the college education of three dozen students on the condition that they come back to mentor younger kids.

Rocky Top recently changed its name to the bluegrass song by that title on the promise that developers would build a multi-million dollar tourist complex.

Time will tell which - if either - of the contrasting approaches can help save this dying sliver of Appalachia.

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