Young Professionals 2 Follow: Bennett Tucker rooted in Hitchcock Woods
An Aiken native, Bennett Tucker grew up playing and riding horses in Hitchcock Woods. Now, you might say the Woods are his office.
“I’ve been tromping through these woods ever since I was old enough to walk,” said Tucker, who is the woods supervisor for the Hitchcock Woods Foundation. “I grew up less than half a mile from some of the entrances to Hitchcock Woods on Dibble Road. Hitchcock Woods was very much a part of my childhood.”
In his position, Tucker is the forest manager and steward of the Woods’ 2,100 acres and 70 miles of trails open every day from dawn to dusk to the public.
“We’re managing the Woods for mixed use between the pedestrians, the equestrians and the dog walkers,” said Tucker, who started in 2006 and recently celebrated his 16th year with the Foundation. “So I take care of the forest and the visitors, too. It’s neat to have a hand in that stewardship in a forest right here in Aiken where I grew up. It’s really special.”
Tucker, a volunteer firefighter with the City of Aiken, manages the prescribed burns in the Woods. He helps manage the restoration of the Woods’ longleaf pine ecosystem – the ecosystem second only to the rainforest in diversity of plant and animal life – and the re-introduction of red cockaded woodpeckers.
He also maintains more than 120 horse jumps riders with the Aiken Hounds fly over during their drag hunts from fall to spring.
Tucker also educates people about the practices used to take care of the legacy forest to keep it healthy and resilient.
Day-to-day, Tucker is out in the woods, mowing the Horse Show Ring, running a chainsaw, bush hogging vegetation or box blading and top dressing trails.
“Every day out here is different,” said Tucker, taking a break from excavating stumps in a horse jumping area. “That’s the cool part of my job.”
Outside the Woods, Tucker is rooted in conservation and forestry organizations.
He is on the Advisory Council for the Aiken Land Conservancy and is the past Stewardship Committee chairman, helping the organization achieve accreditation through the National Land Trust. He has been active with Aiken County Ducks Unlimited and is the vice president of the Aiken County Forestry Association, an association of forestry professionals and landowners across the county.
He’s also on the Technical Rescue Team and the Honor Guard, representing firefighters, with the Aiken Department of public Safety.
But Tucker, 35, is never far from the Woods.
When the weather is good, he; his wife, Lindsay; and their son, Nathan, 2, hike the trails on weekends.
Tucker and his wife got engaged on Warbler’s Ridge.
“We have a tree that’s – quote, unquote – our tree,” he said.
The couple also picked out a longleaf pine that’s in the grass stage and take a picture of their son with it every year on his birthday to measure his growth.
“It’s just something fun, and it’s only a stone’s throw away from our tree,” Tucker said. “We actually have a little girl on the way in October. We’ll have to find a new tree for her.”