When John and I started Friends of Bald Rock in the summer of 2021, we first talked to our closest friends, all members of the Hoot and Holler Social Club. They jumped onboard, signed up as members, volunteered for every cleanup event, and started our volunteer roster. Tim Belknap and some neighbors at Bald Rock Community joined us for the first cleanup days in October 2021, brought lunches for volunteers, and welcomed us with “We’ve been waiting for someone to do this!” Dave Redden and Asa Hill brought some volunteers from the Upstate Master Naturalist Association, all of whom clearly understood the opportunity and importance of restoring Bald Rock Heritage Preserve. The volunteer roster started to grow! And it has continued to grow with many of our early supporters anchoring our cleanup days.
We became a South Carolina Public Charity on September 15, 2021. Today, we celebrate our first anniversary! In the past twelve months, we have made many new friends who know deep in their hearts that litter and graffiti are in no way compatible with a mission to protect and preserve natural resources. We have learned that people who are willing to organize their lives in order to pick up litter and pressure wash graffiti are quietly and powerfully inspiring. Their love for natural spaces, plants and animals, rocks and trees is obvious in the care they give their tasks.
With consistent cleanups in this first year, 183 volunteers have contributed 423 manhours, removed a large area of graffiti, and collected 3340 pounds of litter, making an enormous impact far beyond our wildest expectations. When we started last fall, the first impression anyone would have of the preserve was a lot of trash accented by garish and obscene graffiti. Now visitors see a cleaner parking lot with a large light illuminating the area at night. Most litter is in the trash bin, and new signage informs visitors of the property regulations. The entrance bridge is cleaner, and a large area of the rock is free of graffiti. This sets the tone for the rest of the preserve and visitors are now less likely to vandalize the property. SCDNR Law Enforcement reports less vandalism of all kinds. River Falls Fire Department reports fewer emergency calls. Many visitors thank us for cleaning up. It’s a good start and we have only just begun!
We hope you will join us and follow our restoration at friendsofbaldrock.com. But we’re going to take a moment today to be grateful to SCDNR for the opportunity to work with them to save Bald Rock, and for their unflagging support of our public/private partnership. We are also honored to have the support of River Falls Fire Department, Upstate Master Naturalist Association, Upstate SC Native Plant Society, Greenville Natural History Association, and Greenville County Litter Ends Here.
Most of all we want to thank our talented, selfless, and dedicated volunteers who have done the hard work and made Friends of Bald Rock and restoration possible. What an amazing job you have done! Happy Anniversary to all our members, volunteers, donors, and friends of Friends. Congratulations!!
Asked for their reflections on the past year, some of our members shared these thoughts:
I think one of the most striking things is how formation of FOBR has energized so many people. It seems they were just waiting and anxious/frustrated for something to get started for improvement. The ball is rolling, and changes are starting to be seen. Lisa H.
Pressure washing graffiti off the surface of the rock has been a challenge. There’s been a learning curve, a lot of trial and error, and we get better with every event. We have learned that getting up a few layers of paint may be all we can do on any given day and leaving the area for a month or two allows Mother Nature to soften the remaining layers. When we return, the remaining layers of paint come up easily. I have enjoyed the work, finally getting this done after so many years. It’s been fun to be a part of it. Tim B.
Many years ago, I was a NC native and a newlywed, when my SC husband pulled off the highway to show me Bald Rock. I was so offended by the trash, graffiti, and desecration of such a beautiful area that I quickly climbed back into the car. As we have cleared trash this year, I have discovered wonderful native plants and been so encouraged that there is less trash each time we have a cleanup event. I’m now beginning to look at the rock structures and see the beauty of the views of Greenville and Pickens counties. Jane B.
I have enjoyed this community of like-minded individuals focused on a specific goal, working on conservation at a beautiful spot in our state. It’s so special to share with the group. I have learned a lot working on website development and maintenance. Some parts are frustrating, but still a greater body of knowledge gained. Paula M.
All I can say is it’s the most fun you can have picking up trash…fun people, great cause, and the best views. Beverly S.
This past year has been an opportunity to improve an upstate natural treasure so that everyone may enjoy it! What a view it is! Stan M.
I first met John and Susan Jordan on a visit to Bald Rock to scope out what it would take to clean up the Rock last summer. My first reaction was of being overwhelmed at the scope of effort required. My estimate of how long the job would take was “approximately forever.” However, we agreed to make a start and see what happened. Through a determined effort with strong leadership, a group of volunteers was formed to support SCDNR along with some other organizations to develop a long-term strategy and plan. Efforts were begun to get a cultural shift in the community to move away from regarding the site as a place where vandalism and destruction of public property was acceptable. Once there were signs that this may be possible, and with a long-range plan from SCDNR to support the site, the tasks began to look more feasible. We still have a long way to go, but we are willing to keep making progress one step at a time with a vision of success in the future. Dave R.
President, Friends of Bald Rock
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