Thursday, June 19, 2008

What Are They Doing Now?

To continue the same theme as the last couple of posts, I'll talk about DuPont State Forest some more.

Here's the thing: it's listed as a state "forest" and not a park. What is the difference between a state park and a state forest? I'm not quite sure. I do know that most state parks have more of a wilderness aspect about them. That is, there are rules and regulations that restrict access and limit development of the forests, mountains, streams, rivers, swamps...basically whatever it is about the park that made it worth protecting as a park in the first place.

The nomenclature of state "forest", however, may leave the question of development in a state of constant debate. You can cut a forest down. You can't generally cut down a park. Defeats the purpose.

The old Agfa Plant site, as seen from near the summit of Joanna Mountain

When they made this land into an official state forest it still had an active industrial site within its borders. This was the Agfa Plant. I'm not even sure what the Agfa Plant made, but it was a fairly large series of structures and supporting sites and employed quite a number of people. The land contained as the Agfa Plant was pretty much squat-dab in the center of the forest, and is often referred to as "the doughnut hole". That's what it looks like on a map of the park.

Now, though, the plant is closed down. Not only is it no longer a working plant, all of the buildings and tanks and other structures connected to it have been taken apart and hauled out of the forest. So there it sits, where you can see it from a distance, just a big blank area in the bottom of the valley with some empty foundations and parking lots and a paved road leading up to it.

In addition to the old Agfa Plant site, there are quite a number of existing roads that criss-cross the DuPont State Forest. I can understand the desire to keep these roads in good condition. For one thing, it can be argued that they're needed to maintain motor vehicle access to the cabins that are now serving as homes for park rangers. And for access to the empty lodge building which may or may not continue to be operated as a lodge at some future time. The whole future of the forest is pretty much a mystery to me. The horseback riders and mountain bikers also seem to enjoy these roads. (Also, apparently these roads are sometimes unlocked to allow access to the waterfalls for folk who are physically disabled. I once saw a family of lardasses given access to one of these roads so that they could haul their fat butts to a waterfall lookout.)

What the HELL??!!

But on my latest hike into the park, I saw something rather puzzling, even for a park with a misspent budget. On the Joanna Road, near the top of Joanna Mountain, in a big clearing about 200 feet shy of the summit, my friend Jack and I came across new road construction. This is puzzling for a number of reasons. First of all, the road cuts across the top of pretty much level exposed rock as it is. Why would you need to "improve" such a surface? Second of all, this is now supposed to be a park. At least I thought it was. Why would one haul up heavy equipment to carve out a new road base where one doesn't seem to be needed? Just a way to spend some extra money? The actions of some bureaucratic asswipe? I have no answer.

But I can say that it was exceedingly ugly to look upon. And weird to see this heavy equipment just sitting there in the midst of ripping out chunks of the ridgeline to make a level road surface. Just god damned weird. And what was ironic about it is that this spot is also the finest view I've seen of the old Agfa Plant site. It seemed somehow appropriate in a truly twisted way to stand on new construction in the forest to look down on a site that is supposed to be slowly recovering from the violent hand of Man.

As Jack and I hopped down from our rocky perch to continue on our journey to bag Joanna Mountain, the very loud buzz of what appeared to be a very big rattlesnake assailed our ears as we passed a rubble heap baking in the afternoon sun.

No comments: