By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — The buzzing sound of trees being cut down can be heard these days throughout the Clement Farm Conservation Area.
The city has kicked off its forest management plan at Clement Farm on upper Main Street, where a company is using heavy equipment to thin out the forest to make it healthier. City officials said the company will take most of the trees it harvests in trade for doing the work and will pay the city about $11,000.
And as part of the plan, the city will sell some of the harvested trees to residents for firewood.
“This program gives residents an opportunity to purchase locally produced fuelwood through the city’s pilot program,” Mayor James Fiorentini said. “Next year, we hope to expand the program to other forest areas.”
City officials said workers with Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing Inc. of Henniker, N.H., began thinning out the area last week and are expected to finish the job by the end of next week.
The goals of the city’s forest management plan include creating an educational forest stewardship trail, protecting water quality and preserving scenic beauty, as well as improving passive recreational opportunities and enhancing wildlife habitat.
For Clement Farm, the work involves cutting down weak or damaged trees as well as those that block sunlight from reaching the ground.
“If the canopy is closed, you don’t get any sunlight on the forest floor, and without that you don’t get any new generation of trees,” said Robert Moore Jr., an environmental health technician with the city. “We also have some really nice old and impressive sugar maple in one area, so we’re trying to take out competing trees. We’re trying to create a good, strong healthy forest and a self-regenerating one.”
Clement Farm, which totals about 53 acres, has about 42 acres of forested area under stewardship, but the tree cutting and harvesting is being limited to about 24 acres, Moore said.
Timber being removed has been sold through a competitive bid process to Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing, officials said. A condition of the sale is that Hopkinton will provide seven cords of fuelwood for use by the city in its pilot “Home Fuelwood Program.”
Moore said logs of 22 feet in length will be brought to the Highway Department for bidding by residents, with the goal of having seven different winning bidders.
The mayor said proceeds from timber sales, 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 and to fund a sustainable forest management program for the rest of the city’s forested areas, officials said. Following the completion of the work, the Clement Farm Conservation Area will be re-opened to the public for passive recreational activities and the full use of the ball fields.
Much of the wood that Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing will keep will go to a saw mill for lumber while unusable sections of trees can be used as firewood or be chipped to be used as fuel, Moore said.
Coarse debris that will be left behind would provide habitat for species such as salamanders that like living under logs, he said.
“When you clear out areas you create new and more diverse growth and a new habitat for wildlife with new shelter and new food sources,” Moore said. “It might not be at Clement, but we could put up birdhouses or boxes for wood ducks to nest.”
The plan also includes developing an educational forest stewardship trail that could involve adding informational signage or a demonstration area showing types of trees or what a cord of wood is.
Another goal of the plan is to improve passive recreational opportunities.
“As we develop Clement Farm, it was brought to our attention there is a trail that leads to Little River, which we might want to highlight as the best trail to use so people don’t wander off the trail and make their own access points and cause damage,” Moore said.
Clement Farm tree harvesting plan by the numbers: Clement Farm: Total of 53 total acres, with about 42 acres of forested area under stewardship. Tree cutting and thinning: Limited to about 24 acres of forested area. Tree harvesting: 75,000 board-feet of lumber goes to Hopkinton Forestry & Land Clearing Co. Firewood harvesting: 17 cords of fuelwood. Ten for Hopkinton Forestry and seven for the city's fuelwood program. Wood chips: 840 tons of wood chips to go to Hopkinton Forestry.