Managing the Ecology of Hitchcock Woods
Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. It wasn’t hunting that attracted the wealthy Hitchcock family to South Carolina in the early 1900’s; rather it was the well drained sands that provided good footing for horse sporting activities soils that also grew pine trees beautifully but not crops. Their legacy, Aiken’s urban forest Hitchcock Woods, was home to red cockaded woodpeckers until the 1970’s. Since then, a dedicated regime of prescribed fires, managed with extraordinary caution to protect surrounding homes, has removed the thick undergrowth that is restoring the natural ecology of the long leaf pine system. Not only is the fuel load reduced to prevent unmanageable fires, but conditions are such that an agreement with the Francis Marion National Forest has allowed naturalists to reintroduce young pairs of red cockaded woodpeckers. Educational outreach in the community has created acceptance of carefully controlled prescribed burns necessary to create this habitat.