Residents want Little Plover River Park tree clearing stopped
Village of Plover officials carved acres of trees out of the Little Plover Park with plans to cut more in the future, and village residents want it stopped.
“They made it sound like they were doing a thinning and taking out diseased and dead jack pines, and they removed all of the jack pines,” said Konrad Chojnacki, who lives a couple of blocks from the park.
“They say it’s proper (forest) management,” he said. “I don’t think that’s proper management.”
The Village Board approved clearing several-acres of trees in the park following the Joint Public Works/Parks Committee acceptance of a Forest Stewardship Management Plan for Little Plover River Park and village-owned property in the Industrial Park. The approval came in January and was to be carried out by April 1.
The cutting plan, recommended by Portage County Forester Lyle Eiden, included a “thinning throughout this property … thin the entire stand by removing all the jack pine and the low vigor, poor quality and mature trees regardless of species,” according to the management plan. The total acreage identified for the plan is 47, and a map included in the management plan appears to target the entire forested area of the park.
Mature, up to 100-year-old trees that were reasons, in part, the park was established in 1989 are now gone, residents said, and with them some of the “cavity dwellers.” And with up to a 95-percent cut in jack pines in the plan, the variety of trees available for various habitat will be affected, residents said.
In fact, already the impact is being seen, they said. The park has been reduced so significantly that a variety of birds and owls fled, and their return could be questionable. The primary habitat for young of the Kirtland warbler, which is an endangered species for example, are jack pines, they said.
“The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) has a wildlife biologist for our region and part of their function is doing habitat assessments for people who are managing the forests,” Plover resident and park-goer Bill Seybold said. “They consulted a forester, but not a wildlife biologist.”
The forest reduction was for up to 40 percent of red pine plantation and white pine dominated areas. The jack pine plantation reduction was for up to 95 percent, according to the plan.
“There are those who feel that too many trees have been cut down,” Village Administrator Dan Mahoney said. “The Village Board understood that many trees would be cut down, including dead and diseased trees, but accepted the recommendation with the understanding that it was in the best interests of the long-term viability of the forest.”
The thought process came from past history with a forest management plan implemented a couple of years ago on 40 acres of stormwater retention area that the village owns near Boston School Forest.
“Staff reported that two years later the 40 acres looks very good, with green growth from the forest floor all the way up through the canopy,” Mahoney said. “Prior to that, only the canopy was green. Staff was extremely pleased with the results of the forest management.”
Based on those results, he said, the joint committee recommended the management plan for the Little Plover River Park. At this time, there is no plan to replace any trees, he said, rather regeneration would occur naturally as it had in the section near Boston School Forest.
“The reason for removing trees is so that the understory growth can start growing and maturing,” he said. “There are a significant number of small trees that will now be able to grow, as well as plant life on the forest floor. So … replacement will occur naturally.”
Residents are concerned that with a greatly reduced canopy and more sunshine, the “replacement” vegetation largely will be invasive varieties.
The village and the group of concerned residents have met regarding the issue once already, and the group would like to get more people involved in an effort to stop the second cut, which is targeted for somewhere around 2022.
The group has presented the village with recommendations, a timeline and would like to see some items addressed in the next month. Requests include:
* Cancel the “logging” portion of the plan. The plan states its purpose as “to encourage the growth of future commercial crops through sound forestry practices which recognize the objectives of individual property owners for aesthetics, wildlife habitat, erosion control, protection of endangered or threatened plants and animals, compatible recreational activities, economic returns, etc.”
There are six goals listed, most addressing safety, public use, education and a buffer strip along the Little Plover River. The third goal listed and the one residents are opposed to is “manage current forest types for timber production.”
* Change practiced procedures in posting notification of meetings. This includes informing all residents within a three-mile radius of any issue dealing with the Little Plover River Park and provide regular updates on those issues’ progress.
* Change the structure of the Parks Commission to include three members of the Friends of the Little Plover River Park and for the Parks Commission to meet at least six times a year.
* Officially recognize the Friends of the Little Plover River Park as a nonprofit and have one village trustee or village representative sitting on the organization’s committee.
* Adhere to the requirements for the designation of Tree City and Bird City USA, which residents believe were violated with the extensiveness of the cutting.
Mahoney was not available to speak specifically to the meeting with the concerned group, but did say earlier that staff would “look at ways we can address those concerns.”
Anyone interested in being involved with the concerned residents’ group efforts can contact Seybold at 715-344-3373 or via email at [email protected] or Barb Gifford at 715-344-3539 or email [email protected]