HALLOWELL — A management plan for the city forest will go to a public hearing at January’s City Council meeting now that some councilors say they want input from residents.
At a meeting Monday, the council declined to approve the plan and authorize the Tree Board to carry out its initial proposal, including marking the boundaries and allowing for some commercial harvesting next year.
A motion by Councilor Philip Lindley to approve the plan failed without a second. Lindley said there was no good reason to delay approval and require the Tree Board to come back for a later meeting.
Other councilors raised concerns about harvesting timber, how the management plan will mesh with proposed bike trails, a lack of public input on the final plan and questions of implementation and oversight related to the parks and recreation commission proposed by Mayor Charlotte Warren on Monday.
Councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson’s motion to put the forestry plan on the Jan. 8 agenda with a public hearing was approved 5-1, with Lindley voting against. Councilor Mark Sullivan was absent.
Hallowell owns 168 acres of forestland between Town Farm Road and the Manchester town line. The property includes the reservoir recreation area and a network of hiking, biking and snowmobile trails.
In 2009, the Tree Board conducted a public meeting about use of the property and mailed a survey to all households in the city. Between the two, the board got about 100 responses. Among other findings, the survey indicated that 71 percent of respondents approved the use of bikes, 40 percent approved the use of snowmobiles and 80 percent opposed the use of all-terrain vehicles.
Although there was strong opposition to clear-cutting, 71 percent of the survey respondents supported limited harvesting of timber.
After securing a grant, the Tree Board commissioned the management plan from Harold Burnett, forester and owner of Two Trees Forestry in Winthrop.
Tree Board member Jen Paisley told councilors on Monday that the board also wants to have a biologist visit the forest next year to determine which areas should remain untouched.
Burnett said the top priorities should be protecting the forest from unauthorized cutting by neighbors and educating people about approved uses of the property. That can be done through boundary markings and trail signs.
Logging should be limited to a section of 38 acres on the western end of the property and a 30-acre section south of the main brook, Burnett said, to keep it separate from recreational areas.
Paisley said limited harvesting can help keep the forest healthy, and the oldest, biggest trees will be protected.
Councilor Steve Vellani said he would oppose the plan because it calls for harvesting. The city could net up to $18,000 in 2013 or 2014, and up to $25,000 from logging in 2018, but Vellani said he does not think that’s enough money to warrant the disruption.
However, Vellani’s term on the council is ending, so he will not be able to vote on the plan next month.
Also on the agenda for January is the creation of a parks and recreation commission to combine the activities of several different groups, including the Vaughan Field Committee, the Waterfront Advisory Committee and the Recreation Committee. The Tree Board and Conservation Commission will remain separate because they are in Hallowell’s charter, but they will have representation on the new commission, Warren said.
Susan McMillan — 621-5645