Region should be ‘timber proud’

Mac Gordon

Mac Gordon

After encountering what seemed like the 20th or so log truck rambling through and around Blakely one recent day, I wondered if there is such an event as “Log Truck Day” or “Log Truck Drivers Day” to honor that industry.

There ought to be such a celebration, considering the economic impact that these loud, rugged vehicles and their drivers have — and have had — on the economy of Southwest Georgia, particularly since the Georgia-Pacific Corp. opened its Cedar Springs plant almost 50 years ago in 1963.

At the time, it was the largest container board plant in the world, and may still be. (Speaking of special events, hopefully a 50th anniversary of the mill’s opening is being planned for two years from now. It is certainly warranted.)

The trucks headed to that plant not only are loud and rugged and heavy, they reek of pine resin — the sweet smell of money, not to mention the pleasing cha-ching of cash coming from their roar.

It would be easy to consider log trucks a nuisance, but that would be very shortsighted. Each truck bearing a haul of fresh-cut pine logs — and, occasionally, hardwood timber — is contributing to a fat payroll that emanates weekly from Cedar Springs, providing a firm foundation, along with agriculture, to this region’s economy.

Someone said recently that the G-P plant takes in as many as 500 of these truckloads of timber a day, an astounding number it would seem. That’s about equal to the more than 500 full-time employees required for the operation, which is now owned by Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries, a privately held company whose early money was made turning crude oil into gasoline.

I do not have any statistics to back up this claim, but the many logging companies needed to service the plant have compiled an outstanding safety record. I know that in the one year-plus I have resided in this area, I’ve not heard of a single accident involving one of these trucks. The mill itself has also enjoyed a superior safety record over the years.

More than once, I have opined that the four-laning of U.S. Highway 27, particularly in South Georgia, was a waste of money. I cited a low traffic count as my reasoning. However, if ever there was a road project that is worth every dime spent on it, the State Highway 62 Bypass around Blakely fits the bill. This is the road used by many of these hundreds of log trucks making their way daily — and safely — to Cedar Springs from all directions.

The bypass does not seem to be any worse for the wear it receives from these vehicles. It is also apparent that State Highway 39 has held up well over the years in handling the heavy loads bound for the plant.

Perhaps “Timber Proud” would be an appropriate theme for an event to honor Southwest Georgia’s timber industry and the people who make it go — the growers, those who gather it and haul it to the mill and the paper makers who turn it into a fine commercial product sold across the world.