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Page Pond and Forest Project to get underway this summer

June 24, 2009
MEREDITH —Keeping residents abreast of details of the purchase and subsequent timber harvest of the Page Pond and Forest area, the conservation commission asked for their input last week.

"In December 2008 we were close to closing the deal," said Don MacFarlane, chairman of the Meredith Conservation Commission, "but we were running out of time. The Trust for Public Land fronted some money, enough for us to close the gap and make the deal possible."

One of the conditions of the loan was that the money would be paid back through a timber harvest and a timber management plan would be designed.

If the town had not agreed to those stipulations it would have lost the property. The Conservation Commission was given the task of overseeing that the terms of the loan were met. Shaun Lageaux, from New England Forest Conservation, was hired to be the agent for the town in the sale and oversee the timber harvest on the site.

"Forest health is pretty sound," said Lageaux. "The area is either very wet or very dry. There are wetlands, open lands and a cultural mark, an old mill site."

Lageaux passed out a map of the area that is cut into eight different sections, only three of which will be harvested. The harvest is very conservative, according to Lageaux, with an estimated 500 trees slated to be cut over the three sections. They are also spaced far apart because the requirement by the stewardship laws of the town require a 70 percent crown cover for the forest. This means that looking up from the forest floor, most of the sky will be obscured by treetops.

Most of the area is hardwood, hemlock and pine. Lageaux said this is a good thing for the forest, because it creates a diverse habitat and the management plan for the forest seeks to uphold the diversity of the area.

The harvest area is confined on the northwest side of the forest and limits crossing onto active recreational paths. Lageaux said that they had a good response to the sale of the resulting timber. Twenty-five prospective buyers traveled to the area to view the trees. The top six bids were within $3,800 of each other, from the low bid of $50,000 to the winning bid of $77,900. Lageaux said it's a good sign that they were close together and the bid was high because it means the market is slowly returning.

"This would have been done anyway," said McFarlane. "We are just doing it sooner so we can pay back the loan."

The operation will take two months if all goes well, according to Lageaux, and they will seed the skid trails and implement erosion control after the job is done. The loan itself was for $54,000 dollars and the sale of the trees after the harvest will cover the payment. The remaining money is still unmarked, but the commission said they hoped it might be used for the maintenance of the forest and pond.

Francesca von Ooijen and Donna Murray, who both live near the forest offered their services in maintaining the trails, removing debris and making sure they are aesthetically pleasing. Since the forest is owned by the town, but not a town forest. The responsibility of the area falls to the Conservation Commission. McFarlane said it might become a Town forest in the future, which would fall under the jurisdiction of the Board of Selectmen.

"It's a great area for hiking," said von Ooijen. "I like to take my horses up there. I would like to see more people take an interest in it."

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