The drive to meet Mark and Ronnie Morris is bumpy. Potholes pepper the roads through the Francis Marion National Forest where the brothers have lived their entire lives. They say the conditions are worse than they’ve ever seen them.
“If you don’t have four-wheel drive you can’t make it,” Mark Morris explained.
Ronnie described the roads like something from a war movie.
“It looks like planes dropped bombs in here,” he said.
Severe flooding in 2015 coupled with Hurricane Matthew in 2016, led to widespread erosion and damage impacting 157 National Forest System roads. Many are closed.
The founder of Facebook group Carolina Wildlife Sydicate, David Strickland, says the roads have been closed far too long.
“Tax dollars and hunting licensing dollars are not making it to the resource on the ground,” Strickland told the I-Team.
Amid a News 2 investigation into the road problems, the National Forest Service release information they are working to fix the problems.
“The Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest has been aware of our road system needs and has been taking steps to address this need,” according to Francis Marion National Forest Acting District Ranger Warren Tucker.
The agency recently awarded two contracts to fix the biggest problems.
Priority will be given to arterial roads, roads within established school bus routes, roads leading to private residences and roads identified as emergency evacuation routes.
According to Forest Service Spokesman Jeff Davids, contract highlights in the first year include:
- 201 miles of road grading
- 65 miles of heavy brushing
- the planned distribution of 6,000 tons of rock
- 12 road culverts to be cleared of debris
- 10 Forest Service Roads re-opened.
“It’s about getting the public access to their forested lands,” Davids told News 2.
The work will cost $540,000. Additional contracts are expected to be awarded for work on the roads.