entrance: Maps prepared by MRPC will be placed in containers at entrance kiosks to Old Meetinghouse Hill Park on Highland Street and Old Meetinghouse Hill Road.
LAND check: the town received a grant for 68 percent of the purchase price for 32 acres abutting Old Meetinghouse Hill Park.
By Anne O'Connor
TOWNSEND -- There's gold in them thar woods -- or at least the likelihood of producing income by culling trees and selling them for lumber or biomass.
Townsend owns hundreds of acres of wooded property. A small part of Old Meetinghouse Hill Park, tucked between Highland Street, Wallace Hill Road and Route 119 will soon be logged.
Logging is a multistep, long-term project, said Conservation Agent Leslie Gabrilska. The town-owned park has particular challenges.
Trucks can easily access about 40 acres near Meetinghouse Road. A recently signed work order has given the town the go-ahead to have a forester prepare a forest-cutting plan for this section and send the project out to bid. The work includes marking trees and boundaries and filing the plans.
Once the Conservation Commission reviews the markings and the logger notifies abutters, the work can begin. It needs to be done when the ground is hard, either in the summer or when it is frozen. Gabrilska hopes it will be completed this year.
As for the the majority of the land? "The problem is we can't get to the rest of it," she said. Wetlands bisect the park.
There are two different ways to solve this problem, she said. The town could build a road and wetland crossing near the site of the upcoming logging or could purchase an easement and build a road through fields on Route 119. Another entrace on Highland Street cannot support the weight of the trucks.
Road building costs money. The plan is for profits from the first phase of the logging to pay for the second.
Once the forest-cutting plan is done, the forester will have an idea of the value of the wood. Some of it is large enough for lumber, but one area contains less valuable trees with lots of forks, Gabrilska said.
The logger will retain 15 percent of the profits, the town gets the rest. "We will expend nothing," Gabrilska said.
The town received a $1,250 grant from the Forest Stewardship Program of the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation to pay for the forest-cutting plan and educational outreach. A forest-management plan completed in 2006 cost between $2,000 and $3,000, Gabrilska said.
In December, the town received $35,547 from the state LAND program to purchase a 32-acre lot that extends into Old Meetinghouse Hill Park. The grant covers 68 percent of the purchase price, Gabrilska said.
The Local Acquistions for Natural Diversity Program assists municipalities with aquiring land to be used for passive recreational activities like hiking. Trails, some built by Eagle Scouts, run through the park abutting the new acquisition.
"We'll try to keep a pretty good buffer from the trails. People are using them," Gabrilska said.
As soon as the new lot is purchased, trail maps will be available at the kiosks on Old Meetinghouse Hill Road and Highland Street. They were prepared by the Montachusett Reginal Planning Commission. The MRPC is also creating larger town maps.