North Londonderry Township is in the latter stages of a project that’s been in the work for the last year to thin out older, more mature trees on a 20+ acre recreation area owned by the township in order to improve the overall health and growth of the forest.

The project raised concerns of at least one township resident, who contacted LebTown anonymously seeking more information about why the project was initiated and how it was being carried out.

LebTown spoke in-depth with North Londonderry Township manager Mike Booth, who said that the project scope extends to some 215 mature trees in the park that were identified by a professional forester.

“Our goal was not to clear-cut the property but to take out enough to help with growth,” said Booth.

Booth said that over the last handful of years, the township has had to deal with bigger, healthier-looking trees falling down because they were deteriorating from the inside. That prompted the township to take a hard look at what’s going, he said, and identify solutions.

Booth said the township wanted to keep the aesthetics the way they are.

“We understand the aesthetic value as it relates to the people that use (the park),” said Booth “It’s a shame to lose trees like that, but in order to keep the long-term health of the forest, you have to do things like this to get growth.”

Professional forester Vince Showers, based in Schuylkill Haven, was contracted through his firm Timberline Forestry Services to assess the property and identify trees which were getting mature or over mature.

Map of the project area included in the logging contract.

Showers, who said he’s been in the business more than 20 years, told LebTown that his projects start by understanding what the landowner’s goals are. In this case, he said that the project was “basically just trying to remove some of the trees that were getting mature or over mature,” with special consideration paid to the aesthetics of the property.

After Showers identified the trees for possible removal by examining their limbs, bark, and other factors, township officials reviewed the marked trees and approved them prior to a bid going out to lumber and logging companies. Booth said that among the township staff members who reviewed the selected trees was one employee with more than 20 years experience in the forestry industry.

The contract with the township is structured so that Timberline is paid 15% of the final bid selected by the township. In this case, the highest offer was Doe Run Lumber, which bid $116,550. The lowest bid was $50,750 and the average bid was about $85,000.

Booth said that the compensation received for the trees will be put “right back into the area up there.” According to Booth, the township expects to receive about $99,000 overall from the cutting, but that income was not the intention of the effort, he said.

Showers said that certain trees were taken out because they were starting to go bad, and others because they had already gone bad. Showers said that with an over-mature tract like the North Londonderry Township recreation area, it’s common to have some trees dying off.

Removing mature trees helps improve the tract by creating more sunlight for remaining trees and reducing competition for the water and minerals in the soil, said Showers. “It makes the other ones that you’re leaving behind a little healthier because they don’t have to compete,” he said.

Showers said that it was a pretty select cut for a very over-mature tract.

“If they were just thinking about getting money out of it, they could have chopped down all the trees,” said Showers.

Booth said this was the first time doing a project like this with the township, and in the future – say 10 years or more down the road – they may consider doing it again.

“From what we’re told, there could have been more trees taken out,” he said. “We wanted to keep the aesthetics the way they were.”

Booth said that the trails are used by a lot of people, so township officials didn’t want the tract to appear visually devastated.

Booth said on Monday that there is a small amount of cleanup still needed, but all the timbering is complete and most of the trails have been restored. “We are hopeful the trails will be open again within a week or so, weather permitting,” said Booth.

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