HAVERHILL — Andy Gonios worries about what’s been taking place in the woods behind Northern Essex Community College.
He’s not alone.
A former logger who spent 20 years cutting down trees in New Hampshire, Gonios said he is worried about the removal of bug infested hemlock trees from areas of Winnekenni Park because the project appears to be more extensive than he expected.
Gonios knows the area well. He played in these woods as a kid while growing up on nearby Groveland Street. He said it looks like the forest is being destroyed and that even if it’s necessary to remove the infested trees, he wants the land returned to the way he remembers it.
Gonios, 68, is one of many neighbors of the sprawling park off Route 110 who have contacted city officials and The Eagle-Tribune to question why so many hemlock trees were cut and removed.
City officials said the work is focused on the forest’s hemlock trees east of Kenoza Lake, which are substantially infested with the hemlock woolly adelgid — a tree-killing insect that feeds on hemlocks, an evergreen tree, causing needles to drop, branches to rot and even trees to die.
Officials said the plan that was crafted for the area is being carried out by the same company that Haverhill hired to remove trees from the Clement Farm conservation area last year and that no trees are being cut down that weren’t targeted for removal.
Officials said not removing the trees would pose a public safety hazard in the form of falling trees and branches, potential forest fires and erosion due to “wind thrown trees” — trees knocked over by heavy winds.
“They’ve taken down an awful lot of trees,” Gonios said. “It also looks like they made their own road through the woods and they created a yard where they stack the wood, then haul it away.”