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Claremont Rethinks Logging Route

Claremont — The City Council Wednesday night voted to have the public works department weigh alternate accesses for a proposed logging operation on Arrowhead Mountain after residents of the Ridge Avenue neighborhood submitted a petition claiming logging trucks would further damage their roads and create a safety hazard.

The 5-1 vote came after about 90 minutes of discussion on the project, which was supposed to begin this winter. Just before the vote, Public Works Director Bruce Temple said loggers have to line up winter work soon and he most likely will have to rebid the project on 80 acres of city land with this delay. Bids have been received but a contract has not been signed.

Roy Conant, who lives on Apple Hill in the Ridge Avenue area, spoke for the dozen or so petitioners in the audience. The petitioners favor relocating the access area to the base of the Arrowhead Recreation Area off South Street near the middle school.

“I think it makes much more sense to bring logs down to the Arrowhead base lodge,” Conant said, adding the neighborhood streets are deteriorated, narrow and have sharp turns that would be tough for trucks to negotiate. “We are not trying to undermine the harvest, we are just trying to get the access route relocated.”

The harvest is estimated to generate a net revenue of $50,000 to the city’s parks and recreation department but it could become revenue neutral if it becomes more costly with another route.

“Can our streets be repaired, resurfaced and fixed for that same $50,000?” Conant asked.

Resident Bill Dexter called it a “terrible access” and wondered who would pay to reseed lawns destroyed by truck wheels.

Dennis McKenney with New England Forestry Consultants, the company hired to work with the city on its forestry management plan, responded to residents’ concerns and said they go to great lengths to not make a mess of the roads they use.

“We don’t want to be known as the company that wrecks roads,” he said

McKinney said an alternate route through Arrowhead would add significant costs to the project because the trees would have to be dragged through the woods where there is no road.

“It renders the project impractical,” he said.

McKinney also pointed out that Ridge Avenue was used as access the last time the area was logged in the 1970s. He promised better erosion control once the operation concluded with any runoff directed back into the harvest area.

Temple said the residents’ complaints about the condition of their roads were valid, a problem seen in many areas of the city because of budget constraints.

“I know there are issues up there. There are issues on all roads with potential logging operations,” Temple said, pointing out that private property is logged all the time and the city cannot prevent trucks from using city roads. If the 80-acre parcel were private, “you’d be very hard pressed to keep him off the roads,” he added.

Mayor James Neilsen, the lone dissenting vote, warned that if the council bends to the residents’ wishes and uses another, more costly route, it would be setting a precedent in which any group or residents could make the same demand with a city logging operation.

“Now we got a problem,” Neilsen said.

Besides Arrowhead, a private logging operation off Bible Hill was seen as another possible access route that should be explored.

“We don’t want to shut it down, we are just looking for another way to go,” said councilor Keith Raymond.

Conant suggested that a 2016 planned timber harvest on the northern end of the west side of Arrowhead proposes using Arrowhead for access so the city should make that access ready for this harvest.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.