Forests for the future

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It’s hard to imagine, but there are places in this country where people just don’t pay much attention to pine trees. But if you were born here or migrated here by whatever means or circumstance, you naturally know that names like Pine Street, Loblolly Drive, Ponderosa Drive, Pinetucky Road, Pinebrook Park and on and on didn’t just randomly float down out of the sky. They are here because pine trees are revered in Emanuel County kinda like cows are considered royalty in India. It just comes with the territory. And if you’ve been around long enough, you know it’s just as normal a part of life here as the air and the dirt and the way we talk. So of course, it’s very normal that we celebrate on the first Saturday in May with firetrucks, log trucks, beauty queens, Smokey the Bear, sometimes a real bear, even a camel one year, military bands, Shriners, live music and lots of food. We celebrate what has become a major economic pillar of not only our county but of this region and state. We have done it every year now since 1946 except for a slight interruption from Covid in 2020. The Pine Tree Festival is the longest running festival in Georgia, but before the festival was organized, pines were treated very differently. In the early part of the century, it was more common to see forest burned and land cleared to make room for cotton and tobacco farming. When pines became more and more marketable for turpentine, naval stores, and building products, the tide started to turn. Dr. Charles Herty developed a process for turning pine pulp into white paper in 1930, and the Union Bag Company built its Savannah paper plant. That gave pine trees a new life. And it gave Savannah and Brunswick a new smell. That’s ok. It smelled like success for pine trees. From there on it was steady progress for forest products in the Southeast, and today Emanuel County and 4 other surrounding counties in Georgia are known in the timber business as “the woodbox” because of the overwhelming quantity of timber production that comes from here. So, as we prepare for the 75th Pine Tree Festival this weekend, let’s give a nod to the Festival organizers for continuing a tradition of celebrating this extraordinary resource. Let’s also thank all the hundreds of people employed here in the industry of growing, managing, harvesting and transporting this “crop of opportunity”. The value of pine forest production to Emanuel County has come a long way since 1946. And its promise for the future, as this year’s slogan says is “Growing for generations to come”.

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