By TAYLOR HARTZ
Members of the Open Space Committee (OSC) and local residents met at Crescent Lake on Saturday morning to tour an area that is being targeted for timber harvest and forest management.
The 200-acre Crescent Lake land parcel, located on Shuttle Meadow Road, was one of the first open space properties purchased by the town. This year, 24 acres on the south side of the property are being treated with harvesting and foresting.
The project is geared toward improving forest health, increasing tree diversity, controlling invasive species, and improving habitats for wildlife.
The town has enlisted the help of forester Eric Hansen of Middlefield, and Thomas Worthley, an associate extension educator at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.
OSC members Dawn Miceli, Ed Pocock Jr., Jen Clock, and Bob Berkmoes, Assistant Town Planner Dave Lavallee, Town Councilor Victoria Triano, and members of the Conservation Commission and Southington Land Trust joined Hansen and Worthley for a tour of the 24 acre property. Neighbors from the surrounding area were invited to attend, and several residents of Shuttle Meadow Road came ready with questions.
Miceli said she hoped the tour would clear up resident’s confusion between the forest harvesting at Crescent Lake and a potential expansion of the Tilcon property that is currently in talks at the Capitol.
Hansen said the purpose of the tour was to explain “how this got started, what we’re doing now, and what’s next.” Hansen said that he hoped the tour would be both educational and interactive.
This project is one of the first timber harvests the town has done, and Lavallee said their goal is to make sure the forest stays healthy and productive. Hansen said this process focuses on optimizing benefits from the property, and minimizing invasive species and insects.
“We really want to manage the property,” said Lavallee.
“This is forever and we need to make sure it’s here for everyone,” added Berkmoes.
Worthley, who works with landowners and community groups across the state, said the first step is to know the current state of forest health. Next, he will work with the town to make sure they understand the process of managing the project.
Worthley will enlist UConn students to complete the project. He said his approach will be a combination of an academic exercise for students and “a management plan based on real issues and conditions on the ground.”
Hansen, who has been contracted with the town, will be on-site at least once a week to oversee all of the work being done. Hansen said they started working on an access point for the project in November, but stopped harvesting in mid-December due to weather concerns.
Along the tour, Hansen explained an invasive exotic insect that had been found on the property, causing harm to ash trees. He pointed out ash trees that have been marked for removal, and explained how this would help overall forest health.
While 800 trees have been marked with blue Xs, Hansen said that—relative to the number of trees on the entire 200 acre parcel—it’s a very small number. He said that when he is marking trees he looks at species, spacing, health, and infrastructure.
The forester also discussed plans for controlling invasive plants such as barberry, honeysuckle, bittersweet, and multiflora. The treatment will include the use of herbicides targeted to specific plants over a period of two years. Hansen explained that the herbicide holds little risk to residents’ well water, because “once the chemical comes in contact with moisture in the soil it breaks down.”
Besides pesticides and tree removal, residents were able to address other concerns, including perimeters for the project. Richard Keller, a resident on Shuttle Meadow Road, complained that work was being done closer to his property than he had expected.
Keller said he measured gravel from the project just 47 feet from his property, where people had begun parking their cars. Lavallee explained two reasons for the proximity: line of sight from Shuttle Meadow Road and entrance of access points.
Lavallee, Miceli, and Triano were able to discuss solutions with Keller, including the possibility of “no parking” signs. Lavallee said he will look into signage and cleaning up the gravel, and Miceli said the Town Council will address the issue at the next meeting.
The contract for the harvesting project is set to terminate in August, said Hansen. If the harvest is not finished by then, they may have to consider an extension.