Community members question plan to manage Poland forest
By Jordyn Grzelewski
From ecologists, to a member of the family that helped establish the Poland Municipal Forest, to people who simply love nature, community members showed up in droves to a forum on management of the forest.
At a joint session of village council and the forest board Tuesday night for discussion of a proposed plan for the woods, about 50 people packed village hall to standing room only.
More than a dozen members of the public asked questions, expressed their love for the forest, agreed with some parts of the proposed management plan and pushed back at other parts, especially the idea of harvesting trees.
“The thing we love most about the forest is it’s so natural. If you want a really beautiful garden, go up to Mill Creek Park. If you want great paved trails, go to Boardman Park,” said Patti Wanat, who described herself as a frequent forest visitor. “What makes it so special is it’s allowed to be in its natural state in so many ways.”
Many of those who spoke expressed concerns about preservation of the forest. The plan commissioned by the forest board and put together by forester Rick Miller includes recommendations such as targeted felling of dead or dying trees near trails, and removal of invasive species.
Miller attended the forum and stressed that his report is a road map, not a prescriptive plan. It’s not meant to be final, he said.
“This is only going to be the base work for you guys to work off of,” he said. “That’s what this plan is trying to do, is to get everyone thinking about it.”
His report, which the forest board recently adopted and village council now will discuss further, does recommend the community come together to define what exactly it wants the forest to be, and then develop a logo, brand and mission statement from there. Only then can actual policies be developed, Miller said.
Miller was asked to come up with a plan after discussions among village officials about more active forest management, prompted by the emerald ash borer killing off many ash trees.
Also among those who spoke was Dorothy Butler, great-granddaughter of Grace Heath Butler, a prominent civic leader and daughter-in-law of Butler Institute of American Art founder Joseph G. Butler Jr. Grace’s 150-acre donation to the village in 1934 helped establish the forest.
Butler read aloud a statement from her uncle, Joseph G. Butler IV of Cleveland Heights.
“My grandmother, Sarah Grace Heath Butler, believed that her forested land ‘... should be maintained in its natural state so far as possible.’ Those were her terms to those who would be charged with the care of what is now the Poland Municipal Forest,” he wrote. “Those terms must be honored. Anything less will be an abnegation of her memory and of her gift.”
Some community members also asked for creation of an advisory committee, which forest board President Elinor Zedaker said the board will consider.
“It’s not over. It is not the final stage,” she emphasized.
Mayor Tim Sicafuse urged the community to come together and act.
“We’re asking for your help,” he said. “Let’s work together and come up with something we can all live with and accept and make this a great place for future generations.”
The plan is posted on www.polandvillage.org.