Two committees disagree on park logging plan

by Mary Grow

At their June 27 meeting, China selectmen directed the Thurston Park Committee II and the Forestry Committee to work together and report back.

Two Forestry Committee members and eight Thurston Park II Committee members talked for two hours July 12 without making much progress.

Tim Basham and Elaine Philbrook said they and Anita Smith, who was unable to attend the joint meeting, consider themselves co-chairs of the forestry committee, which also includes Leslie French and Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux.

Basham wants to use part of the park that the 2007 park plan designates for managed forestry as a logging and teaching area where local young people starting out as foresters would gain experience and get mentioned in the town report.  His goal is to increase the supply of young commercial foresters.

His main target would be youngsters who are committed enough to have bought a skidder or other equipment and to have insurance, but who lack experience.  He suggested they be authorized to draw up and carry out their own forestry plans, and implied that income from harvesting would be theirs, referring for example, to the possibility of earning enough to pay for forestry courses.

Philbrook was noncommittal, though she did say that in her years teaching in China – she just retired – she knows of only one student who went into a forestry career.

Thurston Park Committee II members said repeatedly the park should be managed as much as possible to benefit everyone in town, not just for a few people starting careers; and any income from timber harvesting is required to be reinvested in the park or, if voters direct, another town project. Cutting should be bid out, and the bids awarded and work done with assistance from and supervision by a licensed forester, they said.

Basham reported “acres” of white pine flooded by beaver dams on the west side of the park, which is not designated for logging, and recommended cutting it while it has value.  Thurston Park II Committee members Judy Stone and Christian Wilkens cited the value of dead trees for wildlife habitat; fellow committee member Philip DeMaynadier said park management seeks to achieve many goals, including recreation, aesthetics, wildlife habitat and water quality, not just making money by selling stumpage, especially on the west side.

Reviewing June 27 recommendations from district forester Morton Moesswilde, Stone concluded the committee had met them, with the exception of establishing a relationship with a forester who would help plan and carry out timber harvesting and related activities.

Committee members agreed they wanted to talk with more than one forester.  They scheduled a park tour with one candidate for July 26, and talked about others with whom to seek to make arrangements.

The Thurston Park II Committee succeeded the Thurston Park Committee to oversee implementation of the 2007 management plan for the 400-acre parcel in northeastern China.  Under the chairmanship of recently-resigned committee member Bill Seekins, the committee has developed recreational trails and a picnic area and preserved historic areas inside the park boundary.

Committee member Steve Nelson, who lives in Albion adjacent to the park, said hooliganism and littering have diminished as recreational use of the park has increased.  The next meeting of the Thurston Park II Committee is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Aug. 9.

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