Work is continuing on the Londonderry Town Forest, with a dedicated volunteer hoping to add it to the town’s collection of green spaces. But he may need to find another source for spraying the area.
Kent Allen, a longtime resident, is cleaning up the Town Forest to make it more accessible. The Conservation Commission, no longer the supervising body for the Town Forest, thanks to a decision by voters in March, has backed off from funding for protective spraying, and Councilor Jim Butler, the Council’s representative to the Heritage Commission, plans to discuss the issue at the July 11 meeting.
In a recent Conservation Commission meeting, Allen noted that the Town Forest is a 13.5-acre parcel between the Town Common and Glenwood Cemetery.
Allen said he has already accumulated 45 piles of brush. “It was an open winter and I was able to work through it,” he said.
There is a 50-foot buffer along the pond and Allen has agreed to stay clear of the pond. “One of the trails goes along the edge,” he said. “That is the only infringement.”
The area is home to vegetation including several blueberry bushes and ferns. It’s beautiful in the spring and summer, Allen said. “Unfortunately, by October, it’s ripe and it stinks,” he said.
He has left a lot growing, Allen said, including both low and high foliage. “It is a great time of year out there,” he said.
Conservation Chairman Marge Badois observed that there is a lot of poison ivy in the area and Allen agreed. There is one trail, he said, that is “wicked.”
But Badois also told Allen that the Commission has no money in its budget for spraying the Town Forest for invasive species.
“We have not always sprayed the Town Forest,” Badois said in a later interview. “We did it once.”
Badois explained that Conservation entered into a one-year contract for spraying in 2015. “The company had a three-year proposal for us,” she said. “It was not a three-year contract, and we only entered into a one-year contract.”
The Commission voted against rehiring the contractor, Swamp Inc. The one-year contract was for $5,200.
Badois said the Commission is only responsible for controlling invasives on its own properties. “There are invasive phragmites in front of the high school, but we won’t be spraying them,” she pointed out.
Badois also explained that the Commission’s original charge for the Town Forest was to keep it as a wildlife habitat. Allen’s goal is to make it more of a park, and that doesn’t fit the Commission’s view for the area, she said.
“In the last election, the community voted to take the forest out of Conservation’s control,” she said.
Article 12 on the March 2016 warrant asked voters to approve the transfer of all supervision, management duties and responsibilities of the Town Forest from the Commission to the Town Manager. At the time, commissioners did not oppose the change, but recommended that the town also allocate funds for the maintenance of the Town Forest.
Article 12 read: “To authorize the transfer of all supervision, management duties and responsibilities of the land surrounding the Town Common and fronting on Mammoth Road and Pillsbury Road, which is sometimes referred to as the Town Forest, from the Conservation Commission to the Town Manager, with the advice and recommendations from the Historic District/Heritage Commission, Conservation Commission and Town Council. The Article has no tax rate impact. The Council and Budget Committee voted 5-0 each to recommend the Article.”
The article passed, 1,488 to 527.
At the May 26 Heritage Commission meeting, Allen passed out maps and an information sheet about the Town Forest project. He talked about invasive plants in the area, including bittersweet, and said he has cut a bittersweet vine that was 4 inches in diameter. Allen said that Conservation cancelled the spraying contract for the bittersweet, and Butler said he would address the issue in a Council meeting.
Allen’s plans include a possible area for Scouts to camp, an accessible loop trail with signage, and planting of chestnut, walnut and butternut trees, to represent the original “Nutfield.” Residents could donate a tree from a local nursery and have it tagged with the species, date and donor, he wrote in a memo.
Other possible uses would be for schools and Scout troops to use the area as an educational resource for lessons, badge requirements and community service. He would like to see more volunteers, especially those experienced with chain saws, he wrote.
And, he wrote, he is eager to see funding made available for the elimination of bittersweet and poison ivy.
The Council meeting is July 11 at 7 p.m. in the Council chambers.