Crow’s Nest: Chipping along roads

November 18, 2011


I made another round with the chipper yesterday to clean up more damaged limbs that have been dropping over the few weeks since the freak snowstorm.

A family member was wondering why I have been spending so much time chipping storm damage along the local roads that run through or alongside Crow’s Nest Preserve. (We have about eight miles of road frontage if you count both sides of the roads that bisect the preserve.) How should it be that a land trust should be responsible for roads? We aren’t, but as good land managers I believe we still have a role to play.

Our township does a fantastic job of maintaining local roads. I view my work managing the roadside parts of the preserve as working in partnership with the township road crew. After the storm hit the township crew had the roads cleared very quickly—before I’d even arrived home from that weekend’s travels. Additionally, power companies were working to get trees off the wires and further cleared areas along the roads. But their goals are respectively to make the roads passable and to restore power; ours is to manage the adjacent forest for the trees that grow there, to maintain the beauty, safety, and integrity of those woods.

In clearing the roads and wires a lot of debris was left piled beside the roads. Other trees near the roads were damaged by the snow and needed to be pruned or removed so that they didn’t become a future hazard. We chipped the accumulation of branches and cut down trees that would not recover. (Deeper in the woods and away from trails, all of that storm damage is left since it does not pose a hazard.)

Our objectives are to prevent those branches from becoming all you see from the road, from becoming a ladder for vines to climb other trees, and from obstructing access to the preserve. One of the fastest ways to do this is to run brush through the chipper and direct the chips into the woods. We keep the chute moving so that the chips are scatted and not left in unnatural mounds.

Many people experience the preserve only from their cars as they pass through, and we want their impressions to be positive. We don’t want our open space to impose any burdens upon the township staff; we’d like to be counted among the most responsible landowners.

We’d like to think that our expertise and care stewarding these lands sets us apart from many other conservation organizations. Our preserves are demonstration sites for our work.