This is a follow-up to the July 24 editorial regarding closure of our Lick Fork Recreation Area in Edgefield County.
I wanted to let you know how difficult it was for us to close the area. The Forest Service and its employees are key components of the Edgefield community, and we know how important Lick Fork is to its many users in both South Carolina and Georgia.
While our declining recreation budget contributed to the problems at Lick Fork, it wasn't the primary reason for the closure. I am responsible for the health and safety of our visitors and employees, and I wasn't willing to risk an injury or illness because of the unsanitary conditions at the site.
As you may know, we have plumbing and electrical problems. When there's no water or electricity, the pump doesn't work. When there's no water, our toilet and bath facilities don't work -- but that doesn't mean people stop using them. As you can imagine, the resulting conditions can be disgusting, not to mention unsafe.
We just felt we couldn't leave the substandard area open. Our engineers are surveying the problems at Lick Fork and we hope to soon have a better idea about the total repair costs. The $4,200 listed in your editorial and news coverage is only an estimate for a repair patch and increased maintenance in the area. I should have a more accurate cost report soon.
This is where our declining budget enters the picture. We didn't receive much money for our recreation programs in South Carolina this year. If our engineers find that the needed repairs are insignificant, we probably can make them soon and get the area open. If the repairs are expensive, we'll have to wait until we have the money -- just like a private homeowner, who has an unexpected home repair.
Believe me, though, we didn't take this recreation closure lightly. We know people have been inconvenienced, and those of us working in the Forest Service feel badly about that. That's why we're working hard to resolve the problem.
David W. Wilson, Columbia
(Editor's note: The writer is forest supervisor for Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests.)
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