At Haverhill’s popular Winnekenni Park Conservation Area, the plan is to improve the forest by thinning the timber.
Last week, workers began a four-week harvest focused on the hemlocks east of Kenoza Lake. When it’s finished, approximately 40 percent of the tall evergreens in a 50-acre area will be gone.
“Seeing the pine trees left behind, they stuck out that much more,” said Rob Moore, the city’s Environmental Health Technician, after the first day of cutting.
The harvesting is part of a city forest management plan, completed in 2013, and hemlocks were targeted because that species is infested with the hemlock woolly adelgid. As the insects feed, needles drop, branches wither, and the trees eventually die.
The management plan was developed for better stewardship of a valuable city resource, said Moore, and “the infestation triggered the need to get [the hemlock] out of there,” noting that the hemlocks might begin falling onto recreational trails.
Mayor James Fiorentini said that the plan eventually will create more open views from inside and outside the park.
“This is a prime jewel of a forest, and we want people to enjoy it for generations and generations to come,” said Fiorentini. “We’re going to open up some vistas that used to be there. Old-timers will recall when they used to be able to see Winnekenni Castle from the road. Now you can’t, because of invasive species. We’re hoping we can trim some trees to show the castle as it was years ago.”
People are sensitive to trees, said Fiorentini, who has planted an average of 75 per year in his 10-plus years as mayor. As part of developing the management plan for Winnekenni Park and the abutting Plug Pond Conservation Area, 380 forested acres in all, the city asked Mass. Audubon to conduct a wildlife habitat analysis of the city forests, and held public walks seeking input from residents.
Getting the public to understand and support the plan was important, Moore said.
“The whole thought of cutting down trees just seems counterintuitive to folks,” he said. “But our forestry consultant [Gary Gouldrup of New England Forestry Consultants] has a great analogy. It’s like planting a garden full of carrots. If you don’t weed some out, you’re going to have a short, and not a particularly fruitful, harvest of carrots. If you really want a good healthy crop, you need to do some of that pruning now and then.”
“We’re not clear-cutting, and not selling the wood to make money,” Fiorentini said. “This is a program to improve the forest. That’s what it is.”
The city’s $5,200 cost for the forest management plan consultant was reimbursed through a state Department of Conservation and Recreation stewardship program. The tree work is being done by Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing Inc., of Henniker, N.H., which agreed to buy the lumber for approximately $11,000. The proceeeds will go to the city’s open space management fund.
The harvesting area will reopen for passive recreational activities once the work is completed.David Rattigan may be reached at DRattigan.Globe@gmail.