Tree Removal Mystery on Monte Sano

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Fall is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful times of the year and that goes for just about anywhere in the United States. It's particularly true for the majestic canopies at Huntsville's Monte Sano State Park.

The spectacle of the leaves fading into their vivid autumnal colors at Monte Sano State Park is certainly a draw for families and sportsmen alike -  but part of that natural beauty has recently been compromised.

A viewer and avid mountain biker emailed WHNT News 19 over the weekend to tell us someone has purposely felled trees in a particular area on the mountain, effectively shutting down one of the public trails.

According to Monte Sano State Park Head Ranger Kent Wilbourn, two weeks ago a hiker called and reported several large trees that had been cut and felled - obstructing the Huck & Roll hiking trail and leaving behind a massive mess.

Was it some ravenous wood-eating creature - a sudden microburst?

"It's a terrible travesty," says cyclist Matt DeWitt who frequents the trail.

One look at the area and the destruction is undeniable. The big questions now are whether the area is private or state park property, who's responsible and is the demolition a criminal act?

"There's a lot of private property lines that border the state park and we've got our officials in Montgomery coming up this week to verify our property lines."

Monte Sano Head Park Ranger Kent Wilbourn explains there are steep penalties for defacing state park property.

"The park at one time was in the county. Now it's been annexed to the city and the fines are much more once you're annexed into the city," says Wilbourn.

"It's disturbing," said avid mountain biker Matt DeWitt as he lead WHNT News 19 cameras out to the area in question. The biker and hiker now has one less trail to explore and he says the responsible party needs to show some accountability.

"We have a fabulous resource and a lot of people care about it.  But, this just seems to be complete disregard for anything here."

As part of his mountain biking club, DeWitt for years has regularly volunteered in conjunction with the park ranger's office to help clear and maintain obstructed trailways.  He says the trees left chopped and splintered at Huck & Roll have certainly put the trail out of commission for the foreseeable future.

"It's closed. It would be a massive undertaking to get it reopened," DeWitt says.

The resulting eyesore and obstructed access to the trail isn't the only issue at hand according to Ranger Wilbourn. He says fines for damage to state property can increase from the standpoint of habitat and conservation.  He says even the species and age of the trees in question can play a role in any potential penalties.

"Not to mention this canopy will never be back in our lifetime," laments DeWitt.

Ranger Wilbourn says officials with the parks division of the Alabama State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are expected to perform a survey of the area Wednesday.

WHNT News 19 will keep you up to date with their findings and what the next step will be in this tree removal mystery and the investigation into who's responsible.

"There are tons of people with access to the park," says Wilbourn. "We're hoping someone may have information and get in contact with us - but honestly, we may never know."

Click here for park ranger contact information if you have any information on the tree removal.


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