CHINA — For the first time since 1998, the town-owned China School’s Forest will be harvested in the coming weeks as part of an updated management plan.

Several trees spread across the easternmost 20 acres will be cut down and sold as lumber and pulp to buyers who have yet to be identified, according to Anita Smith, a volunteer forest steward and former science teacher at China Middle and Primary schools.

Pending approval by the Board of Selectmen, money from the sales will be put into an account for managing the forest, its roughly 20 learning stations and 2 miles of trails.

On Saturday, members of the public are invited to attend informational sessions about the management plan, which has been drafted by licensed forester Harold Burnett.

The first meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. at the portable building near the Town Office.

The second session will be on site from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with the group meeting at the China Primary School’s bus circle before people head into the 60-acre forest.

The forest at 763 Lakeview Drive, behind China Primary School.

“(The meetings) will be covering the same basic material, but obviously there may be some people who might be interested but might not be able to do the walking piece on site,” Smith said.

“It’s about a mile there and back, so we will be doing some slides with pictures to show what’s out there and explain what the desired outcomes are (in the portable building), and then we’ll actually be able to go onto the site and see what’s out there, and people can ask more questions and see what is going to be cut.”

The China School’s Forest was first certified by the state as a tree farm in 1985, according to Logan Johnson, coordinator of the Maine Tree Farm Program.

In the mid-1990s, a heavy ice storm damaged the forest, Smith said. The last harvest — in 1998 — was prompted by a need to clean up after the destructive ice storm that year and involved a lot of cutting.

“The last 20 years,” Smith said, “we’ve just been letting it grow so that it can recover from the damage that happened in the ice storm.”

Membership in the Maine Tree Farm Program requires having a management plan written up by a licensed forester that specifies the species in the area and the plans for future harvests. The American Forest Foundation’s standards of sustainability govern the management principles, which are aimed at “growing and harvesting forest products, enhancing forest health and wildlife habitat and providing recreational opportunities, clean air and water,” while also meeting personal, site-specific goals, according to the Maine Forest Service.

The China School’s Forest is used as an outdoor teaching resource for students.

The China School’s Forest, owned by the town, will be harvested soon for the first time since 1998.

“The current plan we have right now is to cut about a third of the property every five years from here on out,” Smith said. “The purpose for that is that we really want the students in the schools to be able to see that process taking place, to see how you can manage an area, a forest, so you can still have your wood products but still have recreation, wildlife and all of that.

“By having harvesting every five years, the kids will have at least one or two opportunities while they’re in the China school system to see that take place.”

The China School’s Forest is one of 250 tree farms in Kennebec County, according to Johnson. Statewide, there are more than 1,400 tree farms covering more than 400,000 acres.

Burnett has marked the trees that will be removed, some of which are hazardous and starting to lean over the trails, and others that have reached maturity and need to be cut down to make space for new growth.

“We try really hard to get the highest market value out of the tree, and here in Maine it can be (tough),” Smith said. “But right now, the market has improved. It’s kind of rebounding a little bit, and we’re looking forward to that. It’s a good time to get value out of the harvest.”

The trailhead to the China School’s Forest. The town-owned forest will be harvested soon for the first time since 1998.

The forest, which is open to the public, offers several educational features, ranging from animal tracking and birdwatching stations to a pollinator garden, fairy house village and multiple areas where passers-by can learn about the different habitats, plants and rocks in the area as well as various management practices.

There is also the “Reading Tree,” a large treehouse built around the multiple, woven trunks of an Eastern white pine tree in the heart of the woods.

Depending on the weather, those who are hoping to participate in the on-site tour Saturday will need to bring snowshoes — or at least a pair of boots — and be prepared to walk about a mile, Smith said.

Coffee and light snacks will be provided at the 10 a.m. meeting in the portable building.

Registration is required and can be completed by calling 207-968-2255 and leaving a message with your name and telphone number.


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