, Derry, New Hampshire

February 20, 2014

Residents speak out on state of town forest

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — One resident’s crusade for a forest cleanup did not sit well with some residents at the town’s recent deliberative session.

Many want the forested area near the Town Common to remain intact.

Kent Allen is spearheading a petitioned warrant article on next month’s ballot to ask voters to give control and management of the 13-acre town forest to Town Manager Kevin Smith.

That would get a cleanup process going, Allen said.

“It’s just a mess,” Allen said of the forest that abuts not only the Common but also lies near apple orchards and a historic Mammoth Road cemetery. “This would allow for a cleanup and public use of this land.”

By giving control to Smith, Allen said, the project could begin and the forest is in dire need of some sprucing up.

Allen has come before town groups for about six months, trying to get a plan in place for a forest project to help keep the town’s wooded property clean and safe.

He wants to enlist the help of volunteers like local Scouts and other interested residents to get the job done.

But many in town questioned how to get started on the cleaning project and just who would be responsible for the work.

Conservation Commission members said at earlier meetings they didn’t want Allen’s project to go much beyond the trail area in the forest as it may disrupt valuable animal habitat, including the underbrush around fallen trees.

Town councilors also gave input over the last several months, including concerns over volunteers, safety and liability when work is done clearing brush or cutting trees.

The Town Common already falls under the town manager’s jurisdiction. The Conservation Commission currently takes much management and responsibility for what happens in the forest.

Town Council Chairman John Farrell said the town’s legal counsel advised that the town would be liable and responsible if any injuries or other problems occurred during a volunteer cleanup.

Councilors were not unanimous in supporting this article.

Conservation Commission members also control the town’s Musquash area and other preserved properties and would prefer the forest remain untouched except for trail areas that people use.

Resident Bob Saur, also active with the Londonderry Trailways organization, said conservation officials work hard to maintain the town’s lands and keep them as natural as possible.

“If something falls, they want to leave it there,” he said. “If something grows, they want to leave it there.”

Councilor Tom Dolan said that a major cleanup could disrupt the natural habitat and animals that call the forest home.

“I’m all for cleaning trails,” Dolan said. “But if we were to go in and clean the forest, it would no longer be a town forest. It would be a town park.”

Dolan said the council’s recommendation would be to leave the forest alone as much as possible.