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Project seeks healthy woodlands at park

| December 30, 2004 11:00 PM

A logging project currently underway at J. Neils Memorial County Park represents the last major stage of a plan drawn up in 1999 to improve the overall health of the park¹s timber.

³We were getting quite a fire hazard built up in here,² said retired forester Ed Levert, who led the development of the plan as a project for the Society of American Foresters.

Logging operations have been conducted to get rid of insect-killed and damaged trees and to clear underbrush that was turning the park into a tinderbox.

³The idea is to leave the best trees, because they have the best opportunity to do well,² Levert said.

Persistent drought conditions in recent years have exacerbated the beetle problem, he said.

³Trees are like people,² he said. ³If they get weakened, it doesn¹t take too much until they get real susceptible.²

When the current logging job is finished, Levert and other SAF members plan to keep an eye on the park to maintain the health of the stand.

³What we¹re trying to do is improve the vigor of the trees that are left,² Levert said.

County Commissioner Rita Windom praised the work of the volunteers.

³They have been real helpful, not only here but in Pioneer Park,² she said. ³Pioneer Park is a real success story because of the Society of American Foresters.

Bart Stapley of Troy was the high bidder for the logging job, submitting a bid of around $6,900 based on the 50,000 board feet expected to be harvested. It now looks like the actual harvest will be more like 65,000 board feet, bumping the price up to around $9,000, Levert said.

Unmerchantable material will be set aside to be used next year in the county¹s community firewood project, Windom said. The county has received about 20 logging truck loads of such material from the Forest Service¹s Sheldon Flats interface project, and it will become available to the public at J. Neils Park starting Jan. 4.

The wood will be available at no cost to elderly, disabled and low-income residents. An attendant will be on duty when the wood pile is open for public access from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.