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Hazel Grove Park, Cutler Field on list for woodland clearing

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GROTON — Following plans last year for clearing woodland in the Farmers and Mechanics Club and Town Forests, work will now be scheduled for Hazel Grove Park and Cutler Field off Townsend Road in West Groton.

“At Hazel Grove we’ll be cutting back on the canopy and fallen limbs for about a quarter mile along the track,” said Parks Commission chairman Donald Black.

Black said that because the boundaries between the park and adjacent private property were uncertain, a survey of the area might be in order before any work is authorized.

“And at Cutler Field, we will take some notes on our March site walk and look at what might be cut,” said Black. “We’ll also look at other parks such as Cow Pond Brook and the Town Field and things like that and adapt them to our overall plan.”

Work at the two sites will be added to that previously announced for the 507-acre Town Forest and the 19-acre Farmers and Mechanics Club Forest. It will include the removal of white pines whose canopies prevent younger trees from getting enough sunlight.

“If you don’t do some selective cutting, the forest will take up about a foot of your playing field each year so that in 10 years you’ll lose 10 feet,” explained Black. “And in our case, it hasn’t been done for some time.”

The issue of clearing some of the woodland encroaching on local playing fields was addressed at the Jan. 11 meeting of the Parks Commission.

“We voted to develop a cutting plan,” reported Black of the commission’s discussion. “We’ll be working with the Conservation Commission and the town forester and bringing into consideration the Hazel Grove Advisory Committee and others. The plan is to make a plan.”

Black said that commission members will inspect the various parks and playing fields under their stewardship in the early spring to view conditions before drawing up a definite plan of action.

“The proper time to do any cutting will be the late summer or early fall due to the height of the water table,” revealed Black. “We don’t want to send heavy equipment into the forest (while there is a high water table). And in the winter, there is always a question of how much frost there is. Basically, we’d like to do it in a dryer season.”

Besides normal tree growth and underbrush, parks have also suffered under an October snow storm that left many downed trees and limbs all over town.

“In areas like Hazel Grove Park and Cutler Field where there are limbs down, that will be taken up by the town as its clearing process goes on,” said Black. “But on our site walks, we’ll be looking for some of those trees where branches have broken off and will die as a result of storm damage. Those trees will have to be taken down. Down at Hazel Grove, where the trailers unload, we’ll have to give some attention before April so there won’t be a public safety hazard. There might be a couple things over at Cutler too but I think that’s something (DPW director) Tom Delaney can handle very nicely.”

Black said that he has already met with a timber cutter who predicted that the work trimming back the woodland would probably take 4-5 days to complete weather permitting.

“If there’s any need for extensive cutting, we’ll put it out to bid,” said Black. “If not, someone in town can simply do the work free of charge in exchange for the wood chips. Others might take it for firewood. That’s something we have to determine how we want handled. The bottom line on the cost or if the town can produce any income from it is yet to be determined.”

Acknowledging that there might be sensitivity among some residents to the notion of clearing any kind of woodland, Black said that time would be set aside for them to register their concerns.

“We’re not going to be clear cutting,” Black assured. “We’ll be coming up with a development plan and people can have their input at a public hearing before work begins.”