Tree-cutting begins at Hartley
Several trails will remain closed for the next few weeks as Josh Hull and his crew work to thin areas of forest at Duluth's Hartley Park.
"In essence, what we're doing is like weeding a garden," said Hull, owner of Hull Forest Products of Duluth, as a feller buncher and a log harvester rumbled and whirred in the background Tuesday afternoon.
Hull explained that he and his crew are selectively removing lower-value trees from the overgrown forest.
"By opening it up a bit, the remaining trees will get more sunshine. And with better spacing and less competition, they should flourish," he said.
The project is all part of a forest management plan put together by the city to thin portions of a forest that has received little tending since the plantation was established in the 1940s. The current forest has been deemed by the city to be "unnaturally uniform in age and species composition," making it susceptible to pests and disease.
A project statement from the city says, "The pine stand is extremely overcrowded, and the existing pines must fight for limited amounts of sunlight, water, nutrients and rooting space."
Judy Gibbs, trails and bikeway coordinator for the city of Duluth, said cross-sections of trees cut down in overcrowded portions of the park forest tell a story of stunted development, with growth rings growing ever tighter over time.
Hull expects the forest-thinning effort will take about a month to complete. The work will primarily occur between 6:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
When the cutting is done, the city plans to plant additional trees to increase the diversity of species in the forest.
Hull urges people to heed the warnings and give logging machinery a wide berth. That will mean staying off trails that have been temporarily closed.
"The last thing we want is to have a tree drop on someone," Hull said.
The thinning began in an area of the park known as "Soapbox Derby Hill," and Gibbs reported no problems as of Wednesday, but she worries that as the cutting moves into more heavily used portions of the park the potential for conflict could increase.
In all, about 45 acres of forest in the 640-acre park will be thinned by removing about 25 percent to 30 percent of trees.
If people are curious about the project and the work now under way at Hartley, Hull encourages people to visit the Hull Forest Products website at forest.solutions for more information.
As for the trees that are removed from Hartley, Hull remains determined that they will not go to waste. Aspen is being set aside for siding. Red and jack pine will be turned into two-by-fours. Hull said workers are doing their best to avoid taking out healthy birch, but those that are removed likely will be used for firewood or papermaking. Some other trees have been identified as suitable for use as poles. Additional materials will be hauled to the Hibbard Renewable Energy Center, where they will be used as fuel.
Any remaining wood debris will be shredded on site, using a forestry mulcher, Hull said.