Issues Remain Unresolved Over Work in Town Forest

Clean-up of the Town Forest was back at the Heritage Commission last week and remains unresolved.
Chairman Arthur Rugg recalled that in July, Kent Allen had visited the commission to suggest making improvements to the Town Forest by cutting brush, brambles, bittersweet and poison ivy, and getting rid of some of the dead vegetation, but the Conservation Commission wasn’t in agreement with his proposal.
“That put us over a barrel on whose property it is and whose jurisdiction it falls under, and both of us are working at it,” Rugg said of the Conservation Commission.
A site walk with Town Forester Charlie Moreno also took place, with comments made about the best way to preserve the forest.

Rugg said the Town Forest is in the Historic District, “which means that any changes that occur there have to come before the Heritage Commission for a public hearing process.”
He said he had met the day of the meeting, Nov. 21, with Town Manager Kevin Smith, Comprehensive Planner Jon Vogl, and Conservation chairman Deb Lievens. Rugg said he did not recall the details of the meeting.
“The short term thing is that we’ve got things cleared,” he said. “As we go through the master plan implementation process, that is what’s going to determine things, but also I think the Town Council’s responsibility is to determine who really has jurisdiction there.”
Rugg displayed photos of the forest and some of the work that needs to be done, including trees enveloped by bittersweet and downed and rotting trees.
“What we all had determined at the meeting was that there are a lot of bittersweet and brambles out there, and Deb Lievens mentioned that in the spring, they will be doing the bittersweet stuff (eradication),” he said. “I have asked her for the details. I think this falls more on maintenance and not a change.”
Rugg said part of what should be done was to have a plan for what they want for trails and open areas.
Commissioner Pauline Caron asked about the manpower to do the work. “There was something mentioned about not being able to use volunteers because of liability,” Caron said, referring to legal counsel raising the issue of liability in using volunteers.
Allen claimed the issue involved volunteers under 18 years of age running power equipment.
“I had to assure that the help I was looking for was to move piles of things out, not with any tools or equipment,” Allen said. “The town attorney got involved in the whole discussion of volunteers and he needed to be reminded that without volunteers, Beautify Londonderry and a few other things wouldn’t happen.”
“I exercise by building trails,” said Bob Saur of Londonderry Trailways. “It’s not that we’re asking volunteers to do construction or something like that.”
Saur said there are no plans to add trails in the Town Forest. But he noted it would be a good idea to get a group into the forest to get rid of the Burning Bush plants because they are an invasive, as is bittersweet.
Rugg said the purpose of cleaning the forest was to make it available for people to use.
He said in the short term, Allen will meet with Smith to finish up work that’s been started. “Middle term, we’ll start looking at the implementation (Master Plan) and also to start to look to see our vision to use that area for hiking trails and other uses. Also what has been discussed for the area of the Town Forest is a skating rink.”
He said the proposed rink would be 150 feet by 75 feet and would be located on the other side of the wall from the Common.
“I don’t know what you’d do with all the cars for parking,” he added.

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