By Lacy Hilliard
Backbone Rock is a popular tourist attraction in Johnson County not only because of its pristine surroundings but also its rich history. Created when dynamite met ancient rock in order to engineer a mountain pass for the railroad timber trade, Backbone Rock was born in 1901. The modern-day Backbone Rock provides opportunity to every kind of adventurer from fishermen to hikers to rock climbers.
Last week, The Tomahawk reported that vandals scrawled four names (Katie, Zach, Jacob, and Seren) on the rock in neon pink and green. While the graffiti has since been removed by the National Forest Service, the weight of the crime is still considerable.
Because Backbone Rock is located within the borders of the Cherokee National Forest, any crime committed against it is prosecuted as a federal offense. The penalty for being convicted of vandalism within a National Forest ranges from a $500 fine to jail time. Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter issued a statement saying, Being a National Forest, its strictly illegal to damage an area such as Backbone Rock. There could be legal ramifications brought forth by the Forest Service. I ask that people respect Johnson Countys natural assets.
Another common form of abuse throughout the Cherokee National Forest is litter. Though trash bins are provided at each picnic and camping area, litter still collects in areas frequented by visitors. Not only does litter mar the beauty of the Cherokee National Forest, it can also post a health hazard to local wildlife. Litter can also make its way into the many surrounding creeks and water systems, which makes for a difficult and costly removal process. The unsightly litter also affects area tourism as people come from all over to appreciate the natural beauty Johnson County has to offer.
There have been no charges brought forth as a result of the vandalism at Backbone Rock; however, authorities are still looking into possible leads. If you have any knowledge of the vandalism at Backbone Rock, you are asked to call the United States Department of Agriculture National Forest Service at (423) 476-9700.
By Lacy Hilliard