Mowing down Frontenac

March 25th, 2007

Photo of trees mowed down in Frontenac — Stolen, fair use, from the RW Republican Beagle

I got a frantic call early Monday from a Florence Township resident, distressed that trees were being mowed down, perfectly healthy and beautiful trees, in township parks and near the river. What to do???!!!??? Quick, call the Township supervisors:


From today’s Republican Beagle:

Frontenac beautification turns ugly

By Ginger Holm, Contributor
The Republican Eagle – 03/23/2007

FRONTENAC — Frontenac residents expressed great disappointment and concern Tuesday over a tree harvesting project gone wrong.

About a year ago, Florence Township Heritage Preservation Commission began working on a plan to rejuvenate Frontenac’s Wakondiota and Valhalla parks.

“We were trying to improve our parks by getting rid of the dead and damaged vegetation, and intrusive species — especially buckthorns — and to preserve the parks for future generations.” said Bill Flies, chair of the commission.

Buckthorns are an invasive shrub. Once established, they can crowd out native shrubs and herbs and can alter water tables.

Speaking to the Town Hall crowd, Flies explained the need to manage the plant growth in the parks.

“This was not a management plan,” Kristen Eide-Tollefson said. “That’s not what happened here.”

“I watched the loggers from my house,” said a man sitting in the back of the room. ”They didn’t just cut the marked trees. They cut all the trees.”

Parks had been ignored

According to the management plan, the parks have been ignored for decades and are in need of cleanup that will improve accessibility and create healthier, more attractive parks.

Local residents were given opportunities to voice concerns and share ideas during the planning process. Many residents were hoping to improve their views of the landscape along the river.

A plan was finally approved in September 2006. The appropriate permits were obtained, Flies said.

Albers Farm and Forest was contracted to harvest the marked trees and work was scheduled to begin March 13.

The trouble began when the logging firm, subcontracted through Albers, began work a day early. No one from Florence Township Heritage Preservation Commission was present to supervise the job.

On March 13, Flies and Clay Ruggles, a Florence Township supervisor, noticed that more trees had been cut than were marked. They also noticed that the skidder, a type of tractor equipped with a grapple used for hauling logs, had damaged new growth.

They immediately notified Albers to correct the problem.

Albers management met with the logging crew, and changes were implemented.

The crew finished Wakondiota Park on March 18.

FHPC decided the heavy equipment used by loggers in Wakondiota was not suitable for the rolling terrain in Valhalla Park. To prevent further problems, Flies met with Albers management on Monday to terminate the cutting effective Tuesday.

How could it happen?

Residents at Tuesday night’s meeting wondered how this could have happened. One man asked why there was no one to supervise the logging crew.

Flies explained that they simply didn’t have enough volunteers. “Everyone on this board has other commitments,” he said.

Then a man in the back asked, “How do you plan on getting enough volunteers for the cleanup when you can’t even get enough to supervise the harvesting project?”

Flies agreed the shortage of volunteers has contributed to the problem, then gesturing toward the attendees, he added, “But now that so many people are interested in the project, maybe we will have more volunteers.”

His response was not well accepted.

“I object to being connected to this situation,” Eide-Tollefson said. “I agree it would be great to have more help, but to harvest trees to pay for removal of buckthorns or vistas — to harvest some of our best trees — economically, I don’t understand this.”

Many in attendance seemed to agree with Eide-Tollefson’s views. Others, like Jan Bruce, preferred to look ahead.

“We can point fingers all day,” Bruce said. “But the fact is we all have to work together to find a way to clean this mess up and move beyond it.”

Then Bruce offered a suggestion to bring in a wood chipper to deal with the debris and to spread the wood chips on the path.

“I think we pursued it with all the correct plans of getting rid of the dead and diseased trees and the right kind of species, but as the contractors came in, more was cut than what was marked,” Flies said.

“We made corrections to limit the damage and now we need to work together to get the job done right.”

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