Man recalls father’s hand in creating forest

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 12, 2002

CROSBY &045; A 65-acre tract of virgin timber known as the Flat Rock Reserve was set aside in northeastern Wilkinson County during the late 1930s to show future generations what happens to unmanaged forest lands.

Gloster resident Cletus McCurley, 90, recalls his father’s role in creating the reserve.

&uot;My father and Mr. J.R. Clark worked for the Crosby Lumber and Manufacturing Company.

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They asked Mr. Crosby to set aside a small area of virgin timber for people to see in later years,&uot; said McCurley, now retired after working 43 years as a land and timber agent, first for Crosby and then for St. Regis.

&uot;At that time, there was a school there that was built on a huge sandstone rock.

That’s why they named it the Flat Rock Reserve.&uot;

Several pines in the reserve today measure over 30 inches in diameter at breast height and stand 150 feet tall.

Some of the gigantic longleaf and loblolly pines are probably 400 years old now, McCurley said.

&uot;We cut and removed 17 trees in the reserve that were attacked by pine beetles about 50 years ago.

We counted the rings on one tree &045; it was 350 years old,&uot; said McCurley.

Many of the huge pines have died from natural causes, falling against steep ridges or into open hollows.

&uot;A canopy of uncut hardwood shades out the little seedlings.

The old pines die occasionally, and are of no value to anyone,&uot; McCurley said.

The tract was sold to St. Regis Lumber Company in 1965 and to Georgia-Pacific Corporation in 1985. Each time, McCurley said there was a verbal agreement among the buyers and sellers to continue the reserve.

Plum Creek Timber Company bought the land from Georgia-Pacific last year, and some of the trees were initially marked for harvesting before company officials became aware of the history of the tract.

On Tuesday, Plum Creek Environmental Affairs Manager Kit Hart of Brandon said the company has not yet finalized its policy regarding the reserve.

&uot;We are in the process now of learning more about the history of the reserve before making a decision one way or another to cut any of the trees there,&uot; Hart said.

Plum Creek owns 88,000 acres of timberland in Wilkinson County.

McCurley would like to see the reserve continued with field trips to educate area school children.

&uot;There are a lot of people in the country that don’t want to see one tree cut, but forestlands need management. We’re not supposed to just stand there and look at trees &045; we should look after them,&uot; he said.