South Greensburg halts timbering project in park, will craft forestry plan

Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA), 2014-07-16

July 16 -- South Greensburg had no forestry plan in place before loggers began cutting trees in the community park, according to a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources .

"They started timbering. When we became aware, we contacted the municipality, and they stopped," Chris Novak said on Tuesday.

"They're working with us to have the necessary plan, with a forester involved," she said.

Council President Clentin Martin said he asked three times if a forestry plan was needed.

"They never really clarified that," Martin said.

"They (state agency officials) didn't ask us to stop," he added. "They said they'd like us to have a forestry plan."

On Monday, council agreed to return $10,000 to Mt. View Lumber of Smicksburg , Indiana County , and to declare its contract with the logger "null and void."

Council will set up a committee of three council members and three citizens to review issues at the park.

Council approved the timbering project at a June 9 meeting. Residents accused council of entering into the contract without seeking bids.

Bidders were scared off by opponents to the plans to fell the white and red oaks, shagbark hickory, elm, red maple and other trees, Martin said earlier this month.

"If you don't get a bid, what are you going to do? I can't force people to bid," he said.

Council needed a forestry plan because South Greensburg accepted a $10,125 grant in the 1960s to help establish the park, Novak said.

That triggered what is known as Project 70 requirements, she said.

"Under Project 70, timbering is actually allowed, but we do require that it be done with best-management practices as part of a timber-management plan with a forester," Novak said. "There was not a plan, but they're working with us."

Stephen Squibb , service forester with the state, visited the park and sent a letter dated July 3 to borough leaders. Timbering began July 1 .

"A management plan could not be provided as a guiding document for forest management practices," the letter said. "It is my understanding that no forest management plan has been prepared for the park.

"Further, no written plan or goals for the future uses of the park could be provided," it said.

Squibb concluded, "I also recommend a forest management plan be prepared to ensure the future of the forest is guided by sound ecological science."

Emily Collins , an attorney and executive director of Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services in Ohio , said a forest management plan was needed.

"With Project 70, it's really up to DCNR to do the enforcement," added Collins, who attended the council meeting on Monday. Elected officials are the "trustees of natural resources," Collins told council.

Martin described the decision to stop timbering as a compromise because of public outcry.

The committee will give the community a chance to evaluate what is needed on an unemotional basis, Martin said.

"The decision made by borough council was made in the best interest of the park, and it took into consideration citizen input and communications from DCNR," borough solicitor Tim Fedele said. "The borough does not concede it violated any statutory provision."

The committee will recommend what should be done now that trees have been cut. Councilman Bob Thomas estimated 70 trees were cut before work stopped on July 8 .

"The newly formed park committee is expected to make recommendations to council," Fedele said. "If those recommendations trigger any DCNR requirements, then the borough will work in cooperation with DCNR."

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media .


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