By Julia Purdy
Logs harvested in Northwood Park await transport to a sawmill.
By Julia Purdy
RUTLAND TOWN— A logging operation scheduled for last winter at Northwood Park in Rutland Town has begun and is anticipated to be “wrapped up by the end of January if the weather holds like this without a lot of snow,” town tree warden Byron Hathaway told the Mountain Times last week.
Over half of the trees marked with blue paint in fall 2017 have been harvested, mostly white pine along with a few hardwoods, Hathaway said. Many are at least 60 years old.
“Pine trees are a natural resource,” Hathaway explained. “They’ve reached their prime and instead of just allowing them to stand there and decline over time, we felt it was better to harvest the resource, take the money and put some of that money back into the park in the form of more amenities as well as formal hiking trails. … That’s what spurred the whole thing.”
The operation includes the entire park from east to west, and areas have been made off limits to visitors as timber is cut, dragged and stacked. Log trucks have been making three trips a day, he said.
Cutting on the eastern end towards the big Rutland City reservoirs has ended, but Hathaway warned that walkers need to avoid the entire western end of the park around the farther playing field. Orange cones block the roadway at the town garage, preventing access to the parking area beyond – itself an old log landing from a previous logging operation. People can park at the town garage, Hathaway said, but walking on trails in that section is still prohibited. “It was safer for people to close that off.”
To those who are used to the cathedral-like forest of big pines, the appearance can be unsettling. Logging roads crisscross the park, and piles of slash block some footpaths. The ground is rough with frozen clods, ruts and woody debris.
There is also much more exposed sky. That’s a desired outcome of a planned timber harvest, Hathaway said.
“Though it looks very open and maybe in some people’s minds a little messy, a couple of years will make a big difference,” he continued. Young trees that get more light will grow faster, and there will be more hardwoods in the mix, he explained.
“It will actually enhance the park and make it look a little nicer and it will be sunnier when Mother Nature has a chance to heal that up,” he said.
Asked whether there would be an impact on wildlife, Hathaway said, “Oh, absolutely. There will be more browse available and the deer would like that. There’s not a lot of nut trees but one of the first things that come in is blackberries and raspberries, that’s bear feed. Your birds will adapt. The different type of habitat will certainly bring in different types of animals and birds. But it won’t drive the wildlife out. The turkeys come through here quite often.”
The timber harvest is also essential to improvements at Northwoods Park as a community resource for recreation.
Mike Rowe, head of the town recreation department, told The Mountain Times that when the logging operation is finished he will be able to reconnoiter what’s left and start planning a layout that includes new as well as existing trails. His long-term goal is to achieve a “mini-Pine Hill Park” with trailheads, named trails and signposts.
Select Board Chair Joshua Terenzini said there is no timeline for the finished project and that parts of the plan are already within budget. “Northwood Park to me is one of the most special, beautiful places in all of the county for many different reasons. For us to enhance it makes it that much more special for coming years,” he added.
In mid-April or early May, Rowe said, “The whole park will look completely different, we’re removing a ton of trees – we really won’t know until the trees leaf out.”
Rowe anticipates a “big spring project” that will require a big community volunteer effort. At present the future is a “nice little mystery,” he said, adding, “It’s an exciting time.”
The harvest is being conducted carefully. Thanks to the use of the “feller-buncher,” each trunk can be grabbed, cut off at the base and lifted out without trampling surrounding vegetation.
Proceeds from the sale of timber for lumber and chips will help to finance the trail expansion.
The wood is not going to the North Clarendon pellet plant, Hathaway said. Those logs that are straight and clean enough to meet specifications for boards are going to Cersosimo’s mill in New York state. Low quality logs are chipped and sent to the Burlington and Ryegate power plants to generate electricity. Some “cull logs” that are too big for the chipper go to Bethel Mills in Bethel to make sawdust for livestock bedding.