Upstate Friends group partners with SCDNR to clean up iconic mountain heritage preserve
Article by Greg Lucas
When visitors come to Bald Rock Heritage Preserve, their breath is taken away as they observe the incredibly scenic, panoramic views of the east side of Table Rock Mountain and the surrounding foothills of Pickens and Greenville counties.
Unfortunately, for many years now, along with these amazing views came a shocking dose of multi-colored painted graffiti on the rock, some of which is so vulgar it can’t (or shouldn’t) be viewed by children. Broken glass is scattered everywhere, along with evidence of illegal campfires.
Good news. Friends of Bald Rock Heritage Preserve was formed recently by a coalition of concerned citizens. Spearheaded by Susan and John Jordan, who live near the Preserve, the Friends group, along with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), held a three-day cleanup at Bald Rock Oct. 13-15.
“We started Friends of Bald Rock Heritage Preserve to work with SCDNR to help preserve and protect this beautiful place,” said Susan Jordan, president of Friends of Bald Rock Heritage Preserve.
According to Susan Jordan, Friends of Bald Rock Heritage Preserve is a nonprofit volunteer service organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of Bald Rock Heritage Preserve, a 165-acre complex of granite outcroppings, forests, headwater streams, and rare species of plants and wildlife adjacent to Caesars Head State Park in northern Greenville County.
“Friends of Bald Rock and SCDNR made some great first steps to restore the preserve to its natural state,” said Austen Attaway, SCDNR’s Upstate Heritage Preserve biologist. “Friends of Bald Rock has been unbelievably committed to the work that it takes to clean up the rock face. With their continued assistance, we are sure that we will make Bald Rock Heritage Preserve beautiful again for the enjoyment of citizens and visitors to South Carolina.”
On day one of the Bald Rock cleanup, 14 volunteers and SCDNR staff picked up 25 large bags (about 500 pounds) of litter from the heritage preserve, in preparation for pressure washing the following two days. While volunteers expected the litter would mostly be fast-food wrappers, in fact it was a disgusting assortment of condoms, syringes, diapers, clothing, broken glass, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, food wrappers and other garbage. All trash was taken to the nearby recycling center.
The litter pickup was supported by Summer Gagnon, Greenville County litter prevention coordinator, who supplied pickup sticks, trash bags, water, first aid kit, bug spray, and, according to Susan Jordan, “lots of energy and enthusiasm for the project.” Among the volunteers were residents of Caesars Head, Bald Rock and Lakemont communities, members of the Upstate Master Naturalist Association and the current Upstate Master Naturalist class (a Clemson Extension Service program), and loyal supporters. Law enforcement officers from SCDNR were also on site during the cleanup.
On day two of the cleanup, the River Falls Fire Department brought its pumper truck with 2,200 gallons of water to assist with pressure washing. (Cedar Mountain Fire Department agreed to be on standby to provide additional water, as needed.) Volunteers were on the rock by 8:30 a.m. and ran four pressure washers simultaneously for five hours. Eight volunteers worked in shifts throughout the day. Volunteers quickly discovered pressure washing is exhausting and not-immediately-rewarding work.
“Any area of graffiti often has multiple layers of paint,” said John Jordan. “Some of the paint is fairly easily removed, and on other places you can literally spend several minutes on a four-square-inch area and not remove anything!”
On day three of the cleanup, volunteers again were on the rock by 8:30 a.m. and worked in shifts for five and a half hours. The seven volunteers ranged in age from 18 to 88!
“One of the biggest hazards to volunteers was broken glass littering the rock,” said Susan Jordan. “This presented a clear risk to volunteers as the glass became airborne when the pressure washer hit it.”
Even though the preserve was closed for visitor safety during the three days of cleaning, clearly indicated by traffic cones and large signs, dozens of people still wanted to enter the preserve while volunteers were working. Many of these visitors were understanding, according to John Jordan, but some were not.
“Some were angry at us, saying that graffiti is what Bald Rock is all about,” said John Jordan. “Others questioned graffiti being illegal since it has been done for decades. Some had no idea what a heritage preserve is or its importance.”
However, the Jordans and volunteers also received a large number of positive comments about the cleanup at Bald Rock, which were both appreciative and supportive.
Susan Jordan knows it’s a daunting task ahead to restore Bald Rock Heritage Preserve to what it once was, but she said it’s a challenge that the Friends group is willing to accept.
“We know we’re not going to change a 50-year-old tradition by pressure washing for two days,” she said. “But we’re going to keep at it. The group will continue to work on retaining and recruiting volunteers. The volunteers at this initial three-day event were enthusiastic, energetic and expressed their joy at finally being able to take an active part in cleaning up the Preserve. All volunteers gave 100 percent effort!”
The Friends of Bald Rock Heritage Preserve has already planned its next pressure washing, on Saturday, Nov. 6 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Come join them!
(For more information on the effort to Save Bald Rock, or to volunteer, look on Facebook for Friends of Bald Rock Heritage Preserve or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.