PEPPERELL -- A group of local abutters accompanied Conservation Agent Paula Terrasi and licensed forester Gary Gouldrup took a walk through the Pepperell Town Forest last Saturday to discuss an upcoming maintenance and lumber harvest.
Gouldrup, who has also consulted on forestry projects in Groton, Dunstable, Haverhill, Gardner and Leominster, has prepared a forest management plan with the Town Forest Committee in order to remove selected trees from the overgrown forest.
Gouldrup strategically chose trees that had weather damage, presented overcrowding or were likely to cause problems in the instance of a catastrophe. He also took highlighting the big, healthy trees into consideration.
"It's not only a science, it's also an art," he said.
"Unfortunately, when you think of an ax man, it's usually a bonehead in the woods destroying the whole hillside," said Town Forest Committee member Joe Radwich.
Not so, in this case. The plan has been approved by the state Natural Heritage Conservation to ensure the protection of the forest, wetlands and the inhabitants of both.
"This is just a light cut," Radwich said.
"We'll be doing some selective harvesting in a controlled manner," said Gouldrup.
The work has not been scheduled yet, but Gouldrup anticipates it to begin within the next two months.
Because the forest has so much excess growth, it is visited far less frequently than it used to be when first planted.
"This forest is really underutilized," said Radwich.
By cutting down some trees, the town hopes to not only increase the number of visitors but also generate a profit from the lumber.
"It's a town asset," said Gouldrup. "Through the process of trimming and harvesting, the town will be able to generate some revenue."
After marking the trees to be removed with a paint gun, Gouldrup measured the amount of lumber to be harvested and put the sale of the wood out to bid. Hopkinton Forestry and Land Clearing, Inc. offered the highest price at $58,774. In return, they will be harvesting 262,000 board feet, 45 cords of firewood and 2,345 tons of wood chips. Hopkinton Forestry is a whole-tree chipping company, meaning they will be removing every part of the tree including the top, which is traditionally left behind.
"The whole tree is being utilized, so there will be no waste," said Gouldrup. "We'll have a very clean residual forest when the harvest is done."
Terrasi said the details are still being worked out, but the funds will most likely be going towards the Town Forest maintenance.
The work is expected to take about two months to complete, but the company will have a year-long contract in case of bad weather. The entire process will take place within the boundaries of the forest, meaning the roads will not be closed. That being said, the machinery will be large and noisy.
However, said Radwich, "Large equipment does not mean it's going to violate the woods. Big equipment does not necessarily mean a big mess."
At the end of the walk, the abutters in attendance said they felt that their questions had been answered and their concerns addressed.
"It was very informative," said abutter Harvey Serreze. "I'm impressed with Gary's interest, enthusiasm, experience and knowledge."
However, if any concerns come up in the interim, Gouldrup will be available to consult on them.
"Gary's a professional," said Terrasi. "He's following the project from start to finish."