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The Path of Destruction in the Suwannee River State Park: As Trees Fall So Do Our Rights to Enjoy Public Lands

Viewing the Suwannee River Through Wild Foliage

Viewing the Suwannee River Through Wild Foliage

The image above is taken within the boundaries of the Suwannee River State Park on the other side of the river from the main entrance.  There is a wonderful hiking trail along the bluff where it is possible to catch glimpses of the river through wild foliage just as the first inhabitants to our state must have seen it. Wilderness is important for our souls.  It is a state where everything cannot be figured out and filed away.  Wild places are where the past, present, and future are all bound together, the places where the fluidity of rivers mirrors our evolution towards becoming better stewards of the planet and our own lives.  We feel one with our surroundings and understand we do not exist on this world we exist in it.

Sadly these places are becoming more and more rare and they are becoming increasingly threatened.  The primitive areas of our State and possibly National Parks will be traversed by the onslaught of pipelines coming our way. They are the places that will be fracked and mined in.  When we lose them, we lose the opportunity to heal our souls and make ourselves whole, and ecosystems and flora and fauna become more endangered too. Looking through these trees to the peaceful river beyond, really made me feel part of the landscape and I don't ever want to lose that feeling.

Blank State Park Sign

Blank State Park Sign

But lose it I might, as the sense of foreboding I felt when I encountered this blank sign told me.  This sign no doubt was once where the map of the area with hiking trails was once displayed.  Sabal Trail may have seized an easement, but there are still clearly marked hiking trails that are open to the public. I can only surmise that they don't want people to come here anymore, but they do not have a legal right to all these acres.

Freshly Snapped Tree

Freshly Snapped Tree

After hiking along the trail for a ways, I came to this freshly snapped tree that bears one of the trail markers.  Next to it was a stake with the red flag marking the route of where the pipeline will go.  They are not supposed to be knocking down trees yet, but I could only surmise that this was there work, as there were way too many trees down along the pipeline route for this to be a coincidence.  Below are some more downed trees I saw as I walked off the trail and followed the path always within State Park boundaries. I do not trespass ever when doing this work.

The Fallen Ones

The Fallen Ones

Toppled Trees in the Path of Destruction

Toppled Trees in the Path of Destruction

Snapped Tree and Wires Marking the Route

Snapped Tree and Wires Marking the Route

The image above shows the wires that Sabal Trail is putting in along the route.  I am not exactly sure what they are for, possibly to alert them if people are walking near there route.  I, of course, stayed away from them.  Later I was told by someone that he believed that stepping on one of these lines was why an armed worked from Sabal Trail suddenly appeared to encourage him to leave.  Fortunately, my visit was undisturbed, but I would not recommend going here alone.  I won't the next time.

This Tree Will be Next

This Tree Will be Next

When I saw this tree, I wished I could warn it what would happen to it next, but of course trees take eons to move.  The markers everywhere through the woods made me very sad.  I have seen how wide a swath they clearcut for these 36 inch pipelines, removing far more trees and vegetation than is actually necessary.

Fall Swan Song

Fall Swan Song

This tree may have fallen of its own accord, or perhaps it was disturbed by the workers.  When I saw it leaning this way, its roots ripped from the earth with brilliant fall foliage still at its crown, my heart sank as I knew many more mature trees would fall and violently.

Trampled Vegetation Amidst Fall Color

Trampled Vegetation Amidst Fall Color

These downed limbs and snapped trunks were likely the rsult of the pipeline workers.  There are of course always fallen branches and trees on the forest floor, but there was a much greater preponderance of the along the route.  The woods were so beautiful that day with the light and colors, but it was not entirely peaceful, as I could hear them digging in the distance the whole time I walked.

Active Sinkhole Near the Pipeline Route

Active Sinkhole Near the Pipeline Route

Another very disturbing thing about running a pipeline through this park and part of Florida is that there are active sinkholes all over.  Besides the huger Lime Sink on the other side of the river, there were many smaller sinkholes on this side.  Here is an example of one.  Where the downed tree limbs is is the pipeline route and one of the flags for the other side of where they will clearcut is in the distance.  

How They Marked the Hiking Trail and River Crossing

How They Marked the Hiking Trail and River Crossing

The stakes and flags, though they crossed the upper branch that passed through the deeper part of the woods, stopped before the reached the trail along the bluff.  I looked back into the distance to see where the last flags were and determined this was where the pipeline will cross the trail and river.  It appeared that they broke a big tree as a marker.  On the other side of the river I saw a No Trespassing sign.

View of the Immanent Suwannee River Sabal Trail Pipeline Crossing

View of the Immanent Suwannee River Sabal Trail Pipeline Crossing

This is the exact spot the pipeline will cross.  On the far bank there is a small red sign that says No Trespassing on it.  Though the bank is sandy on the opposite side of the river, it is not that way for long.  

Cypress Tree on a Karst Bank Nearby the Proposed Sabal Trail Crossing

Cypress Tree on a Karst Bank Nearby the Proposed Sabal Trail Crossing

On the same bluff trail not far from the river crossing show in the previous image, I saw this cypress treee growing into a Karst bank.  Even where sand covers the riverbanks, this is the geology of the entire area.  As I have mentioned in other blogs, there are huge cave systems with karst windows into other areas and even the aquifer.  I spill in this area would not be easily contained.  

Where the Sabal Trail Pipeline Will Cross the Suwannee River

Where the Sabal Trail Pipeline Will Cross the Suwannee River

This is where the pipeline will cross the river on the bluff side. These beautiful trees will be casualties, along with old growth cypress, cedarm and magnolia trees and the habitat for coots and herons, fox, deer, and gopher tortoises among other species.  While we were walking, I saw some deer run off in the distance when the sounds of the machinery in the distance grew particularly loud.  I wondered if he animals had as great a sense of foreboding as I did.