Woodlands Management Committee Meeting Minutes
January 16, 2013
Attendees: Cliff Miles, Martha Dwyer-Bergman, Bob Dewing, Jerry Uhrig
Guests: Richard DeVenezia
The purpose of this meeting was to review and discuss approaches to achieving our goals for the year:
The three major scourges of our woodlands currently are deer, beavers, and bikers.
The deer management program consists of population control by UBNJ bowhunters and progress monitoring by means of baseline deer exclosures. This season has been a challenging one for the bowhunters. The hurricane was a major disruption of the woodlands and of their activities. However, we expect that by the end of the season we will have met our objectives. The other component of our deer management program, the deer exclosures, also suffered from the recent hurricane. Three of our four exclosures suffered damage. Ongoing inspection, care, and maintenance of our deer exclosures is an activity that can be expected and planned for. In the coming year, we should organize this work a little more formally, calling on students, scouts, and residents under the guidance of the Woodlands Committee.
The beavers, which have radically modified the habitat in Wilcox Park, seem to have been negatively impacted by recent major storms over the past two seasons. They seem to have move downstream to the river. This is a fortunate development because as recently as late December the beavers had moved into Birchwood Lake and begun taking down trees along the lake shore. What we plan to do this year is to closely monitor the situation to be sure that we know where the beavers are and begin forest restoration in the former beaver habitat.
In contrast to the deer and the beavers, the third major scourge, the bikers, are not anywhere close to being managed. In Wilcox Park, they are totally out of control. It appears that the major problem lies with adult bikers who view the entire Wilcox Park as a playground for active recreation. The biker gates have been vandalized and signs have been destroyed so that the restraints put in place and negotiated by Janice Hunts during her Council tenure are for the most part not apparent unless a biker stops to study the trail map posted at the Birchwood Lake parking lot. This map does make it very clear where bikes are permitted and where they are not. Further out in the park, the gates, had they not been vandalized, and the signs, had they not been destroyed, would reinforce the information in the posted trail map and make it easy for the biker to know where to bike. At this point, it appears that a period of aggressive enforcement might be the most economical option. It is easy enough to find bikers in violation of the regulations. Violations are so common. It should not take too many arrests and confiscated bikes to make the point. Failing this, it was proposed making use of the many downed trees to constructed sturdier bike barricades wherever they are needed. This would require the use of heavy equipment to move the trees into place. Another option might be a more aggressive information/education program to include restored and improved signage. The Woodlands Committee will start by consulting the Borough Manager regarding the feasibility and effectiveness of various approaches.
This effort has been in place for as long as the Woodlands Committee. As it has evolved over the years, there is becoming more support from community outreach groups: students and also business groups. REI in East Hanover has a particularly noteworthy program. We are in contact with them and hope to have some joint invasive removal efforts in the coming year. Community support has been growing as well. Particularly noteworthy is the Native Plant Garden at the Cove, which replaced an extremely harmful hedge of Japanese barberry. There is still far too much barberry in our woodlands and most of it comes from residential plants. The birds eat the berries and deposit the seeds in the woods. From the viewpoint of the Woodlands Committee, this is one of the two most important Centennial projects. The other is discussed in the reforestation section.
Two major reforestation initiatives were started last year and will be continued this year:
planting of the centennial American chestnut trees and planting of nearly a thousand seedlings throughout our woodlands by the Woodlands Management Committee and by the students in the high school community outreach program. The centennial chestnut trees begin the restoration of a viable community of American chestnut trees. We planted 10 seeds in the fall of 2011, of which 7 produced seedlings. Last fall, we planted 20 seeds. Each year, we will plant more seeds, whatever we can get from the foundation that provides them to us. The seeds come from blight-resistant trees. But we expect only about 10-20% to be blight-resistant themselves. Nevertheless, over the course of years we will restore a viable American chestnut community, the first in a hundred years. That is what makes it such an important centennial project.
Our other reforestation project placed nearly a thousand canopy trees, understory trees, and shrubs throughout our Borough woodlands. Like the chestnut trees, they too will not all survive. But they have been chosen from good native stock and from good suppliers. So we can expect a reasonable return to our woodlands from this source as well. What we plant this year will depend largely on how much support we can get in the planting and care. The support last year was not too encouraging. So too much of the planting effort fell on too few individuals. It is a very good project because the funding support is nil-to-minimal. This is because we plant bare-root seedlings. This stock is best because it has the best chance of survival out in the woodlands where there will not be the nurturing expected in a garden or a residential context.
Prospective New Committee Member
Richard DeVenezia attended our meeting as a guest to determine whether we had enough mutual interests for him to join our committee. The committee agreed unanimously that Richard would be a helpful and productive member if he were to be appointed to membership. So the Chairman agreed to submit the necessary materials to our Council Liaison for Council approval.
Minutes submitted January 22, 2013 by Jerome L. Uhrig