In an effort to partner with local hunters that know Tate’s Hell Forest better than most, Apalachicola Riverkeeper collaborated with husband-and-wife team, River Banks and River Fielder, to launch an annual clean-up effort in Tate’s Hell. Both spend a lot of their evenings and weekends in Tate’s Hell and frequently pick up trash left behind in the woods. River Fielder speaks to the respect and care she has for the forest:
“I have lived in Franklin County for eight short years and am so very proud to call this beautiful place home. I spend most of my time here in the woods or on the water admiring my surroundings, hunting, or fishing. Tate’s Hell is one of the places my husband and I spend most of our time when we aren’t working. The love we share for the forest is immense as is all of yours. I know most of you as do we have shared some of the most amazing memories with friends and family in Tate’s Hell. Whether it be sitting in a tree listening to the woods wake up on opening day, watching the fog lift on a spring morning waiting for a turkey to gobble, or jumping off burnt bridge on a sweltering day to cool off. I can’t help but want to keep the forest as beautiful as we can for years and generations to come.”
Tate’s Hell Forest is over 212,000 acres, with 35 miles of rivers and creeks that run into Apalachicola Bay. Recreational activities such as boating, fishing, camping, and hunting are popular with such a large, diverse landscape. Tate’s Hell also plays a major role as a watershed buffer that impacts the condition of our waterways and fisheries.
Our first annual Tate’s Hell Forest Cleanup was truly a community effort. Ada Long, coordinator of the Annual International Coastal Clean-up, arranged with Franklin County to have a dumpster delivered free of charge to the Gully Branch campsite. We had a dedicated group of locals from Franklin and Wakulla counties spend their Saturday morning ‘trash bashing’ through Tate’s Hell. All the campsites were occupied, so they spread out to cover as much area as possible along the rivers and roads to clear out trash. The usual beer cans and plastic bottles were the most common finds. However, box turtle shells and a lost hound dog were found as well. The lost hound dog was happily reunited with her owner at one of the campsites in the forest. To finish off 4 hours of picking up trash, the group reconvened at Gully Branch to enjoy barbeque pork sandwiches provided by Kim Council of Mangia.