, Derry, New Hampshire

November 7, 2013

Town forest supporters still hope to clean

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — They are still trying to figure out how to see the forest for the trees.

Supporters of an effort to clean up the town forest are still hoping town councilors will help them find the best way to do the job, without having volunteers put themselves in dangerous situations.

Right now, the wooded spot near the Town Common is in dire need of some tender loving care, supporters say.

Town councilors heard details about the proposed project after town sexton Kent Allen requested a plan to spruce up the area.

They wanted a bit more information before allowing the project to get started.

Allen got a green light from the Heritage Commission, but then Conservation Commission members took exception to some things he wanted to get done.

Allen and Heritage Commission Chairman Art Rugg told councilors Monday night the 12-acre forest could add another wonderful dimension to the town for residents to enjoy.

Trail supporters also expressed interest in creating additional trails in the forest area.

But officials were concerned about some potential danger to volunteers when tree-clearing work is involved and what sort of liability the town might have.

Brian Johnson, the fire department’s Chief of Fire Prevention, said right now it’s hard for fire personnel to have access to the forest in the condition it’s in. There is much dead wood and areas that are full of brush and fallen limbs.

“We went out with the forester and our biggest concern is dead trees and the limbs that are down,” Johnson said. “There are dead trees everywhere.”

That not only would cause concern for anytime there might be a fire in the forest, but could also cause accidents for fire personnel trying to access the paths to get to an emergency.

“It would be hard to get our apparatus in there,” Johnson said. “There would be hazards bringing in equipment.”

Another concern with a forest cleanup effort is any liability to volunteers who might want to work, but may get injured.

Town attorney Mike Ramsdell warned councilors about using volunteers due to those liability issues.

Allen said he has worked on other town projects with Eagle Scouts and local Scouts are willing to help in the forest and would only follow safe measures when it came to clearing the woods.

“Right now, it is a jungle,” Allen said. “It’s unsightly.”

Councilors asked Town Manager Kevin Smith to come back with his recommendations on how to move forward.