Monday, April 22, 2013

Harrangue: The Skinny on Sassafras


A couple of weeks ago, I meandered around the countryside on my trusty Ninja, and one of the places I stopped was at the top of Sassafras Mountain.  This is the highest point in South Carolina, at 3,554 feet above sea level. 

Back in 2011, I went there too, and was pleased to find an attractive wooden deck constructed so that the view to the south and west was finally visible from the top. Before that, there wasn't a good place to see into the distance in any direction that I could find. 
I thought that was great.  The area was still off the beaten path, but rather easily accessible by way of a potholed road ending in a gravel parking lot. There were usually fewer than six cars there at one time, and always a quiet place. 

The Foothills Trail runs nearby, and there are lots of people who traipse either from here or through here as they enjoy the scenery.  They recently paved the road, so it isn't potholed any more. 

Not elaborate, but a nice, simple place to get away from it all, I thought. 

Well, when I visited there the last time, that fine platform was gone, replaced by an ugly structure with a foot-high step to get onto it from the ground.  

A little research provided some additional information.  It turns out that the new platform was designed by Clemson University graduate students in architecture and landscape architecture.  They have good intentions to make a path up to it, but this thing's been there for several months with nothing else done yet. 

Dan Harding, associate professor of architecture and director of the Clemson Community Research and Design Center said, “The concept hinged on an idea that used a primary wood structure with a light, sky-blue-painted steel railing designed to leave visitors feeling as if they are floating over a wonderful rock out-cropping while remaining safely contained by the railing, which disappears into the expanding horizon.” 

Oh.  Makes me get all goose bumpy -- really touchy feely sounding, isn't it.  

I think the old structure did that just fine, and had the added benefit that it was already paid for.   

The article says that the new platform “employ[s] best practices associated with sustainable construction and resource management.”  I don't think so: The pretty blue steel railing has already begun to rust, and it provides no better view of the valleys and lakes below than the platform that was scrapped. ...and that one didn't look like a circus prop -- maybe for the human cannonball spectacle. 

I wonder what they thought was wrong with the old platform?  I also wonder whether any of the engineering students -- Masters Degree students, remember, not beginners -- had also studied economics to determine whether there had been any payback on the previous simple structure, seeing as how it was only about two years old at the time it was demolished, was perfectly functional, was unobtrusive, and was in good condition. 

I doubt it. Seems to me better that they determine that this would be a waste of money and go design something really useful. 

The funding for this unnecessary eyesore was provided by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources – in other words by your tax dollars.  Darn, that topics comes up a lot these days

Even more distressing, I found that there are plans for a tall observation tower to be built on the site. 
From the SCDNR webpage
This will be an even worse eyesore. 

They are attempting to get private funding, but you can bet that your tax dollars will be taken, too.

My vote: Let's keep it simple. Let's not make this a top tourist attraction, lest it be spoiled further ...and maybe not spend more money at all!


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