Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Woodcutting Moratorium

As you drive through your neighborhood on your way to town or work, imagine your surprise and irritation when you come upon someone standing there with a chain saw and a pile of downed trees blocking the road, right in the middle of of your neighborhood. The wooded area where your kids play and you walk is left with a bunch of stumps and piles of slash, and the road is now littered with trash and bottles. Your realize your neighborhood road taxes are inadvertently paying for this to happen by providing access.

I am asking the Assembly and Borough for a moratorium on open cutting on Old Ridge Trail until our neighborhood has some input on planning and zoning for this area, and that there be some restrictions and regulation on cutting. I know we are all concerned about the price of oil, and many of us already burn wood, but I think there is a better way to address the problem. We need some real planning, with the Planning Commission, not through Land Management, in our area first. I had hoped for some zoning when the first comprehensive plan went through 25 years ago, with definite areas set aside for recreation before sprawl and see-saw land decisions made it an afterthought.

Now that I've made my request and given my general argument for thoughtful land use planning, let me give my specific concerns about cutting on Od Ridge Trail.

1. This will be a free-for-all. The information I received by phone said any dead, down or decrepit wood can be cut. Trees aren't marked. There are no rules or regulations, just pay $5 a cord, maximum 20 cords. Get a map at the borough office. Since this is basically free wood anyone with a chain saw may be out there. The easiest cutting of course will be right next to the road which compounds the danger. I foresee a lot of trees falling in the road, and if we don't get hit as we drive home, we will probably be dodging brush and branches left or thrown onto the road. That's assuming they don't get hung up in other trees. And who's to say what a decrepit tree is.

2. There's no clean-up requirement or way to enforce it anyway. What makes this particularly irksome is that when we widened the road through the Borough mile,we were really careful not to create big berm piles of stumps and trees . That is why it looks so nice through that mile now. Several families on the lower road cut the trees ourselves, kept the logs and spread out the branches throughout the woods. We had the stumps buried in several places and used the dirt on the road. It looked much cleaner than our first service area widening project where the contractor pushed everything into a few spots and it took twenty years to break down. Now that careful work will all be for naught. We'll be looking at a trashed area for years.

3. When it rains, the increased traffic will create mud and rut problems on the road. People will be getting stuck and blocking the road for neighborhood traffic. And, it looks like the August rains have started early this year. When its icy they'll be sliding into us. We know, we've all pulled out the sightseers from town. My favorite was the pink cadillac we had to drive out for the owner. Its the only time I've driven a caddy. Its no fun though when you're late for work.

4. The ski trail and other trails will get ruined by truck traffic, or if used heavily by ATVs when it's wet. They'll become drainage chutes. We put a lot of work in to make these trails.

5. Private property out here will look like the public land to woodcutters. When the powerline went in, people from town thought it meant public access and free wood for anyone without asking. Who will pay for "Private Property" signs to put up every 100 feet?

6. Does the borough plan on reimbursing the service area for extra maintenance that will be required? How about paying for "No Outlet", "Turn Around Here" or "End of Road Here" signs? Otherwise they'll be stuck on the lower hill and sliding into our driveways when it snows or is muddy, crunching the culverts, or ending up in the Tourmeys' barn.

7. Most of the wood that will be cut will need to dry out to be of value. There is little "dead or down" firewood-sized trees. With no enforcement, people will be cutting green wood, which burns inefficiently and incompletely. This is not a quick fix for a fuel shortage.

8. People will be driving fast through the upper neighborhood to make it up the hill. There are kids that live and play next to the road there. Additionally, we like the quietness out here, with occasional sound of, not constant buzz of chainsaws and vehicles. Will the borough buy speed limit signs for us?

There has been little thought given, or planning to alleviate the problems that will arise for woodcutting in the middle of a neighborhood. There has been no attempt by the borough to address mitigation or even notify the residents of the road beforehand. There is State woodcutting land nearby that is much more suitable, not on a residential neighborhood road. How would you feel if I started cutting on the closest piece of borough land to you? I'm sure it's "Accessible". Please end this now.

Signed--Long Time Resident

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