Forest Technician Defends Park Work; Some Have Criticized Extent of Cutting at Claremont’s Moody Park
Cassandra Boardman, of Charlestown, left, and Nicholas Rae, of Claremont, right, walk through Moody Park in Claremont after taking a break out of their day Friday, April 25, 2014. Logging in the park over the winter has left some residents questioning the results.
(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Circa 1950 the Moody Park Pavillion and view of Mt. Ascutney from Moody Park in Claremont, N.H.
Claremont — Results of winter logging at Moody Park may look severe when the park reopens to vehicle traffic and draws more visitors as the weather improves, but the forester that removed the trees said the project will improve the long-term health of the forest.
One goal of the project had been to restore a view of Mount Ascutney from the hilltop pavilion at the park.
“What we really tried to do was an improvement harvest. We left the healthiest trees,” William Caveney, a forest technician with New England Forestry Consultants, the firm that oversaw the work by North Country Lumber of Littleton, N.H.
In February, some residents complained to the City Council about the number of trees being removed.
On a walk through the park this week, Caveney explained the rationale for the timber harvest and how loggers determined which trees to cut and which to leave behind.
Beginning in December, trees were harvested in the area to the left of the access road starting in the picnic area near the park entrance on Maple Avenue and continuing to the end of the road at the hilltop pavilion . On the right side of the road, trees were removed beginning near where the road begins to climb toward the pavilion.
“It is different, but I think it is a good different,” said Caveney. “It will take time (to come back) and I’m hoping people will realize that.”
Trees that were cut included white pine, red maple and red oak, but most were hemlocks, which are of “low quality,” do not stand up well in wet ground, are more prone to tipping over and thus more likely to become a hazard, Caveney said.
“The pines we left out here, we picked the highest quality ones to leave because they have the best chance of staying upright,” Caveney said.
The work in Moody Park was done as part of the city’s forestry management plan adopted by the City Council in 2008. Last winter, an area of red pine on city-owned land just west of the park was logged.
The revenue generated from the harvests goes into an expendable trust fund in the Parks and Recreation Department for undeveloped city owned land. Caveney said this harvest was done with the understanding that years from now, the city would be able to earn more revenue from the next harvest.
“We are trying to build not only a healthy forest but a valuable forest,” he said.
The city said that while all the revenue has not been received, the amount thus far is $24,600 for this operation.
In the front area of the park where picnic tables are set among towering pines, Caveney said, loggers came across more trees with rot — evidenced by thick black seams running up the trunk — than originally anticipated, and in discussions with the park and recreation department, they decided it would be wise to remove them.
“They are a hazard to anyone using that area,” Caveney said.
Caveney also explained why there was so much debris left behind, particularly in the picnic area near the park entrance. While the contract required “whole tree harvesting,” that phrase applied to what remained as part of the tree after it was felled.
The mature, unhealthy trees that were removed often had huge limbs at the top, Caveney said.
“The force of the tree hitting the ground, it just explodes when it hits and that is what you are seeing out here,” Caveney said, referring to branches on the ground. “There were no limbs cut off the trees. It was just what broke off. There is no value in little branches so it is just not cost effective to come back and pick them up.”
Claremont Parks and Recreation Director Mark Brislin said this week that they are working toward having a lot of the debris on the affected trails and road cleaned up before the park is opened to vehicles Memorial Day weekend.
“That is our hope,” said Brislin. “It will take a lot of manpower.”
Brislin said they have had some of their employees in the park the last few days cleaning up the road and trails that run through the harvested section. Parks and Recreation has also scheduled volunteer work sessions beginning Friday, May 9.
“Volunteers will be asked to help in the cleanup of branches, limbs and debris from the timber cut and stacking or bringing the debris to the wood chipper,” Brislin said in a news release. “Other tasks could include the raking of trails or cutting branches and logs that are blocking the trails.”
The department will provide tools and those interested in helping can sign up at www.claremontparks.com. Other volunteer dates are May 10, 15, 16, 17 and 22.
Caveney said whatever debris is left, will not be noticeable after several years.
“In five years, this stuff will be very flat,” he said. “The sun will cook this stuff and it will flatten right out. There will be a huge change. In 10 years, you won’t know there is brush.”
Caveney also said park visitors can expect to see regeneration start to sprout up in about two years. “It will come up fast.”
At the top of the hill, where the road ends, trees were removed to open up a view of the broad shoulders and summit of 3,100-foot Mt. Ascutney to the west. When the timber harvest was discussed several years ago, officials agreed that trees would be cut to restore the view that William Moody saw when he gave the 300-acre park to the city in 1916.
“I stood at the top of the hill while the machine was running and we worked down until the view was perfect,” Caveney said. “Could we have left more trees? Possibly. But then, as those trees become bigger, it would be an expense to the city to remove them to keep the view. This view will be here for many years with very low maintenance. That is one thing we tried to factor in.
“I hope they come up here and see the view and not just the stumps. In 10 years, with regeneration, you are not even going to be able to see the stumps.”
The recreational use of the park was also a factor in the extent of the cut. Pointing to a stump, just off the road part way up the hill, Caveney explained that the large hole in the middle was an example of the rot found in many of the trees.
“We found rot at the base, and spots of rot halfway up the tree and all the way through the tree,” he said. “They were well past their expiration date.
“In a normal forest situation, we may have left more of those because they can continue to grow and produce quality timber because some had only sections of rot. But out here, they become a hazard. This park gets so much use, there is a much better chance (a falling tree) could hit somebody.”
Caveney also said loggers left many sugar maples and red maple, so residents can expect a lot of orange and red foliage in the fall.
Another issue Caveney addressed was planting new trees, which was not part of the contract.
“In New England, you really do not have to replant; the natural cycle does that for us,” he said.
Furthermore, Caveney said, planted seedlings in New Hampshire have an 80 percent mortality rate because “natural regeneration will beat them.”
Once the trees were removed, “water-barring” was done in several areas, which diverts water and prevents erosion, Caveney said.
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at email@example.com.
William Caveney is a forest technician who helped oversee the logging of Moody Park in Claremont. A headline on an earlier version of this story misstaed the role he played in the work.