LONDONDERRY — As the local forest sexton calls on volunteers to help clean up the Town Forest, not everyone can agree on exactly what “clean up” should mean.
Kent Allen approached both the Heritage Commission and the Conservation Commission in late summer, when he shared his proposal to clear out debris and brush along with small shrubs and trees.
Allen said he received conflicting answers from the two advisory boards, so he decided to go before the Town Council on Monday night to seek clarification.
“Who’s driving this bus?” he asked the council.
The Town Forest, a 12-acre parcel once owned by the Mack family, is located behind the Town Common on Mammoth Road.
Over the years, the site has been subject to several pruning efforts that conservation commissioners said has been necessary to remove overgrowth of an invasive vine known as Oriental bittersweet.
Allen, who had hoped to begin the project last month with the help of local Boy Scout troops, said the cleanup he’s proposing “would only remove smaller trees of less than three-inches in diameter.”
In late August, members of the Heritage Commission didn’t have a problem with Allen’s proposal, for the most part.
But after conferring with invasive species expert Prescott Towle, who removed some of the site’s bittersweet several years back, Conservation Commission Co-Chair Deb Lievens said she wasn’t convinced clearing the area entirely of brush was the answer.
Last month, Towle told conservation commissioners that he felt manually removing the bittersweet “wasn’t nearly as effective as herbicide.” Charlie Moreno, the town’s forester, said he felt having volunteers clear out forest debris presented a safety concern.
Lievens ultimately told Allen she felt the volunteer efforts could instead be directed to create signs for a new walking trail in that general area, while fellow commission member Gene Harrington added that he felt it was important to conserve the land “in its natural state — that of a New Hampshire woodland.”
This week, Harrington told the council that the forester had recently advised against any cutting down of trees.
“We agreed it was OK to cut back the brush along the new trailway but to leave the forest itself alone,” he said.
The new trail will stretch from Londonderry Town Common to Mack’s Apple Orchard, passing through a deep section of town forest.
Full of brush and brambles, the area is a prime wildlife habitat for creatures that prefer plenty of hiding spots, conservation officials said.