PEPPERELL -- The 100 acres around River Road and Elm Street was designated as the Town Forest in 1925.
Two weeks ago, for the first time a forest management and stewardship plan was presented to the Board of Selectmen. The board unanimously approved it and gave the Forest Committee permission to move forward implementing the plan.
Ninety acres between River Road and Elm Street and another 10 acres off Jewett and Heald streets comprise the Town Forest. A state provision provided white pine seedlings to any community wishing to designate 100 acres of land as their town forest in the mid-1920s
Thus, Pepperell's Town Forest is predominantly large, old pine trees. The management-stewardship plans will make aesthetic, recreational and natural improvements to the parcel, explained Forest Committee Member Gary Gouldrup. Apart from being on the committee, he is a part-owner of NE Forestry Consultants, a company that has done work in town before.
"After doing a forest inventory, where we look at it's resources, it was easy to determine it is well over-stocked," he said. "We are seeing it's mortality in oak tops that have busted off."
Because of the amount of planting that was done in 1925, Gouldrup said the town forest is a "monoculture of one age class," which has a "small under-story and susceptibility to insects, disease and weather."
Forest management calls for selective harvesting, which will help the forest by varying the type and age of trees
"Estimates range between $30,000 and $35,000 for the harvest, part of that revenue would go to paying for services," he said.
Now is an ideal time for implementation, Gouldrup said, because of how over-mature the stands are, the profitability of the harvest is going to start going backwards.
Tree Warden and Forest Committee member Peter Shattuck said this has been a long time coming.
"Our intention is to enhance it, we have visited a couple of other towns who have implemented plans and checked out what our forest would look like in a year," Shattuck said. "It is a big improvement."
Shattuck went on to praise Conservation Administrator Paula Terrasi for her tireless efforts on the plans.
"To get ball rolling and to get to this point is huge, she has been instrumental with paper work, getting the grant and following through," he said.
The plan further outlines other goals, such as replacing bounds, improving fire roads and other entrances, and cleaning up picnic areas, Shattuck said.
Timeline-wise, the next steps are to find out how to sell the timber, determine the harvesting volume, and send a prospectus to potential buyers, Gouldrup explained.
"A fully-mechanized operation can take three weeks to a month depending on weather conditions," he said.
Forest Committee member Joe Radwich said he spent his "previous life as a logger."
"People don't like tree cutters," he said. "It's important to educate folks on what's going on.
"They say don't cut the big ones, but those are the ones we should cut."
Gouldrup said the committee would provide educational walk-throughs and meetings for people to ask questions and raise concerns. To minimize impact, the lumber landing would most likely be positioned in off of the road, by the power lines Shattuck said.
Slash, or low-to-the-ground brush, will be cleaned up as well, Shattuck added, to keep clear paths for the fire department in case of a situation.
"This plan and the committee are a great asset to town, there is a reason it takes time," said Selectman Joseph Sergi. "It's not a lot of revenue, but good stewardship."
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