After months of discussion about how best to manage the Poland Municipal Forest, village officials now have in their hands a report that will help them answer that question.
The “Woodland Stewardship Management Plan,” written by certified consulting forester Rick Miller of Dover, provides a detailed history of the 262-acre forest and recommendations for how the village might tackle its management.
“The main thrust of the plan was not to give them detailed recommendations. It just seems like there wasn’t a lot of specific direction,” Miller said. “I was trying to give them more food for thought so they could establish a more direct management approach.”
Up to this point, the village has not actively managed the property.
“For all those years, it kind of just went by like a ship without a sail,” said Mayor Tim Sicafuse.
Forest upkeep has been a topic at council meetings for more than a year and a half, with the discussion prompted by a tree-eating insect killing off significant numbers of the forest’s ash tree population.
Miller’s first recommendation is the village develop a definitive brand for the forest, thereby clearing up confusion over the forest’s “conflicting names and unclear identities.” He also recommends adopting a shared mission and value, establishing a logo, and creating a long-range plan for the forest.
His report also tackles several key objectives, one of them being reforestation.
“First, all stakeholders need to understand what sustainable forestry is and the value it brings,” the report states. “Secondly, the [council] must take control of the direction [of] forest management. The way this is accomplished is to carefully define and agree on what this particular forest is, what it is to become and how to get there – not by initiating timber cutting as a first measure.”
For safety reasons, Miller recommends removal of dead or dying trees from areas where they pose a hazard to the public, then replanting certain areas.
“Some people think of it as removing everything. It’s coming in here and doing strategic replanting to start a new crop of trees,” said forest board member Mark Thompson, who was in charge of commissioning the report. “So in another 20, 30 years you have the big, beautiful trees.”
Also key in Miller’s report is proliferation of invasive species, which are nonnative plants that interfere with the ecosystem into which they’re introduced. His plans calls for control and removal of all those invasive plants.
Another objective is aesthetics, an issue Thompson discussed during a recent trip to the woods. Take the Indian Trail and College Lane entrances, for example.
“To me, they look broken down, unloved, unused,” he said.
“Poland Forest is not to look like a manicured park, but rather woods,” the report states. “Forest entrances and trails [are] to be groomed, signed, and maintained for public use. Visual vistas from main and minor trails to be developed and/or maximized.”
Other objectives in the report are managing the forest’s floodplain, since it is a bottomland and preserving biodiversity.
Another factor Miller urges the village to consider is education.
“My big thing, personally, is it’s a great opportunity being so centered in an urban area, to provide a connection between people and the forest,” he said. “It gives a great opportunity to provide a learning tool for a lot of people around the area. It’s a very beautiful forest.”
The forest board has adopted the plan, which council now is considering. Council members will join a Feb. 28 forest board meeting to further discuss the plan.