Posted on Mon, Jul. 21, 2008
Tornado adds to damage at Brown's Mount
Wildlife officials say the remaining trees at the
top of the publicly owned portion of Brown's Mount were destroyed by
the Mother's Day tornado that also totalled many homes in Macon.
The devastation may compound earlier damage from a logging operation
there last year.
The park, managed as part of the Piedmont and Bond Swamp national
wildlife refuges, is owned by the state and has been closed to the
public for years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was on the cusp of
opening it when officials realized last year's timber cut, intended to
get rid of a pine beetle infestation, may have harmed the site of an
ancient human settlement dating from the same period as nearby Ocmulgee
Federal and state officials had met in the past few months to develop a
plan for assessing the logging damage.
Rick Kanaski, regional archaeologist and historic preservation officer
for U.S. Fish & Wildlife, said he had prepared a draft management
plan for Brown's Mount that included three major components: mapping
the archaeological sites accurately, excavating select spots to check
the condition of any artifacts found there and creating a long-term
plan for managing the historic elements of the site.
"This will give us a better idea of where everything is and allow us to
keep a better eye on it down the road," Kanaski said. "Once we have
more people up there hiking and visiting, we're more likely to have
other vandalism and looting."
All existing maps are fairly general in their identification of the
locations of past excavations. David Crass, the state archaeologist,
had said earlier this year that existing maps seemed to show that an
earthen lodge site probably was used as the staging area for the
logging deck last year.
However, "it appears there were trees cut where the earth lodge was,
but the logging deck was not there, which is good news," Kanaski said.
Because existing maps were imprecise, the state had to bring in the
last archaeologist who did major research at Brown's Mount to make that
determination, Kanaski said.
Once survey markers were established, Kanaski proposed that 25 shallow
excavations be conducted using shovels and hand tools in meter-square
segments along the ridge.
The remaining logging debris would be moved by hand from these spots,
and once the assessment was finished, decisions could be made about if
and how to remove the rest of the wood. However, there apparently are
many more fallen trees now on the north slope of the mountain and the
summit, said Carolyn Johnson, assistant manager for Piedmont and Bond
Swamp. It's unclear how this could be cleaned up without heavy
"This site is fairly shallow," said Kanaski. "If you use heavy
equipment that does rutting, then you're damaging the site again during
cleanup, and that's the last thing you want."
But if the storm leveled the trees, there also is a danger that
artifacts could erode down the mountain, he said.
Kanaski said a long-term plan for Brown's Mount should include, among
other things, a memorandum of understanding between state and federal
governments about who will enforce looting laws and how looters will be
prosecuted; public education about the site's history and about
anti-looting laws; developing a ground cover with native plant species;
and installing interpretive signs to describe the cultural history of
Brown's Mount and its importance to the Creek Indians.
The plan would be created in consultation with the Creeks and would not
include any further archaeological investigations if the Creeks don't
agree, Kanaski said.
But many of the initial plans may go out the window, depending on the
degree of storm damage, Kanaski said. He said he is trying to meet with
state officials to examine the property since the storm.
Andrew Hammond, manager of Piedmont, Bond Swamp and Brown's Mount, said
his office is going to propose to at least clear the road and the
"That way people can get to look at the top just to get the damage
assessment done," he said.
Crass, with the state DNR, was not available for comment Tuesday. Local
park advocates, who helped preserve Brown's Mount from development
early in the 1990s, have been critical of the refuge's decision to
leave the park closed for so long. Johnson said it will remain closed
until after the archaeological assessment because of fears about
"I'm disappointed they can always find an excuse to keep it closed,"
said Lindsay Holliday, once a founder of the Brown's Mount Association.
"That simplifies their job and costs less."
Holliday said the public should be involved in decisions about how to
help the area recover from the tree loss, a process that also would
keep the public interested in visiting the park.
"They need to get out of their ivory tower," Holliday said. "It's not
just an archaeological site. It's not just trees. It's a totality of
experience. They've lost sight of the forest for the trees."
To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.
Brown's Mount website: