HAVERHILL — If you hear chain saws and cranes operating at the usually tranquil Winnekenni Park, don’t be alarmed.
It’s the sound of Haverhill working to keep trees healthy at the 200-acre park.
As part of the city’s Forest Management Plan, tree cutting and harvesting will begin this week at the Winnekenni Park Conservation Area.
City officials said the work will focus on the forest’s hemlock trees east of Kenoza Lake. Officials said this species of tree is substantially infested with the hemlock woolly adelgid — a tree-killing insect that feeds on hemlocks, causing needles to drop, branches to rot and even trees to die.
Work is expected to take three to four weeks to complete and will involve the use of heavy equipment on the property. This portion of the Conservation Area will be closed to the public as a safety precaution during the operation, city officials said.
Timber removed from the property has already been sold through competitive bidding to Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing Inc. of Henniker, N.H., the same company the city hired to harvest trees at Clement Farm last summer. The company used heavy equipment to thin out the forest at the city-owned farm on upper Main Street to make it healthier. In trade for doing the work, the company took most of the trees it cut.
The company paid the city about $11,000 and also provided Haverhill with timber that was sold at auction at the Highway Department yard on Primrose Street.
The management of Haverhill’s wooded areas came about as a result of a severe winter ice storm in December of 2008. After the storm, City Councilor William Macek proposed the city create a forestry management plan to remove unhealthy trees and bring an annual revenue source to the city.
“Cutting blighted trees allows for the faster and better growth of healthy trees,” Macek said. “It can also create, in certain cases, firewood and other byproducts that can help the community and its residents.”
City officials said all proceeds from this timber sale, estimated to be around $11,000, will be deposited into the city’s Municipal Open Space Management Fund to cover the forestry costs already incurred by the city. They said it will also pay for a sustainable management program for the rest of the city’s forests. Following the completion of work, the Conservation Area will be reopened to the public for passive recreational activities such as hiking.
“This program continues to benefit our community by managing our beautiful forest lands,” said Mayor James Fiorentini. “We hope to expand the program to other forest areas.”
In March of 2012, the Haverhill Forest Management Committee met with residents and had a site walk to review the Forest Management Plan drafted for this property by the city’s forestry consultant, Gary Gouldrup of New England Forestry Consultants. Money for the development of this plan was provided by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
In April of 2013, the committee enlisted the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Ecological Extension Service to conduct a wildlife habitat analysis of this property and the city’s other forests. The purpose of the analysis was to provide the committee with recommendations for proceeding with active forest management, while being attentive to wildlife habitat needs.