DECATUR — Local environmentalists stressed the importance of civic engagement Monday evening, as they gathered to discuss their ongoing opposition to plans that allow logging at two areas within the city.
Troy Garver, 44, said he'll continue to make his opinion heard about the issue whenever he has the opportunity.
"You can't get 100-year-old trees to just grow back," said Garver, of Decatur. "You just can't get them back."
Melody Arnold addressed the issue with her presentation "Why Stop the Logging in Decatur?" during the annual meeting of the Macon County Community Environmental Council at the Decatur Public Library.
Arnold, president of the Decatur Audubon Society, revisited the events that led to the city council's approval of a contract with Sullivan-based Critchelow Logging on May 15. The agreement came after the logging company approached the city about the project.
She expressed the Audubon Society's concerns about logging's potentially negative impact on the environment.
Among them are the disruption of the natural habitat for the animals and insects that populate Sportsmans Park and the former site of a Girl Scouts camp, and a steep reduction in the amount of oxygen that the trees in those areas produce.
"We are all surrounded by nature," Arnold said. "Nature is what supports us."
The city council's contract with Critchelow Logging will allow the firm to cut down 114 trees in the 18 acres of empty, wooded land and sell the wood.
At least $25,000 of the proceeds will be provided to the city, and City Manager Tim Gleason previously said the city will use the money for beautification efforts.
Brian Critchelow, owner of the logging company, could not be reached for comment Monday.
City Councilman David Horn answered questions that attendees had about the logging project at Monday's meeting. Horn and Councilman Bill Faber voted against the deal in May, saying that the city had not made its case for the logging.
While the deal was approved by the council, Horn encouraged the public to continue challenging the city's decision and to make their voices heard. Arnold, who was inspired by Monday's turnout, did the same.
"If we raise our voices and band together, then we might be able to have some success," she said.
Monday was not the first time residents have expressed their displeasure regarding the logging agreement. On Aug. 7, members of the Audubon Society and the Community Environmental Council protested outside of the Decatur Civic Center, as the city council prepared for its meeting that night.
Deputy City Manager Billy Tyus said the city has no official comment on the logging plans at this time but offered assurance that officials "respect the right of residents to express opinions related to government issues."