Footsteps in the Forest

Fireworks in the Forest

A Criminally Bad Idea

Last weekend, I had the chance to hike Vickery Creek Trail inside the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

Temperatures were quite high, but I had a great time and enjoyed my visit.

Well, most of it, anyway.

But let’s talk about the good stuff first.

Vickery Creek Spillway
B. Team

The park and trail are tucked into a rather busy part of Roswell, Georgia, but the forest is isolated enough that you will still enjoy that sense of escape that we all seek. It’s a nice forest, if fairly typical for the area.

A combination of pines, oaks, sweetgums, tuliptrees and beeches dominate, but there are some less-common trees too.

Bigleaf magnolias – including some relatively big ones – punctuate the forest, and you’ll also see a smattering of American hophornbeams.    

There are also plenty of great rock formations, a few attractive vistas, a nifty waterfall, some historic artifacts, and a covered bridge.

If that all sounds great, that’s because it is – this really is a charming little slice of Georgia forest.

But when you combine all of these things and the fact that my visit took place on a holiday weekend, you end up with a trail that’s a bit more crowded than I’d consider ideal.

But that’s OK – we want everyone to get out there and enjoy the natural world.

B. Team
B. Team

Tangentially related, it’s possible that the forest was more crowded than usual because it is safely north of a section of the Chattahoochee that’s been closed due to E. coli contamination (talk about terrible timing). Scads of people were splish-splashing in the river – especially at the base of the falls.

At any rate, I was having a great time. But then I arrived at a crime scene.

That sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true.

A few days before my visit, fire officials discovered a brush fire burning through a hillside at the park.

The Roswell Fire Department and Georgia Department of Natural Resources worked together to quench the fire (by airdropping water taken from a nearby lake, no less). No injuries were reported, and the fire was quickly extinguished.

So, we should all thank the men and women working at these agencies who helped save part of our forest. Things turned out more-or-less OK.

But more-or-less OK doesn’t mean completely OK.

This part of the forest has been damaged. Critters undoubtedly died, as did some of the vegetation. The area, which is on a steep cliff overlooking Big Creek, will likely erode faster now too.

Fortunately, Mother Nature will recover; wildfires are a natural part of many forest ecosystems.

But this fire wasn’t sparked by lightning, as is the primary cause of natural fires throughout the millennia; this fire was started by an idiot who had the brilliant idea of setting off a firework in the middle of a forest.

That is a federal crime.

You can’t even possess fireworks in a National Park (which includes the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area), let alone set them off.

Mother Nature already has her hands full trying to cope with the stresses humans are dishing out. We’re altering natural habitats far more quickly than these natural spaces can cope with. Pollution, watershed changes and the wholesale elimination of natural areas are all taking a toll.

We don’t need to add unnecessary stress to wilderness areas, such as when people selfishly and carelessly spark fires.

One final, admittedly selfish, point:

While Mother Nature will tend to heal from some of the wounds we inflict, that doesn’t mean she’ll heal in a timeframe that we’d like.

It may take 100 years for a fire-damaged forest to recover. During that time, multiple generations of nature lovers will be left without another patch of habitat to enjoy.

So, get out there and enjoy the natural world, including places like Vickery Creek Trail, if you happen to live in the metro Atlanta area. Just be careful, respect the natural space you’re enjoying, and leave the damn fireworks at home.

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