Parks Director Greg A. Weitzel assured Council member Ray O'Connell at last night's Parks & Recreation Committee meeting that the City has no designs on harvesting the forest. For one thing, he explained it's "too small for that." He said the City might realize "some minimal dollars" down the road as it removes some trees, but stressed that his main goal is to "get more people to appreciate South Mountain and not abuse the mountain." He gave a report detailing trail erosion as the result of ATV use, and also indicated there are some illegal tree stands and dumps. But overall, the South Mountain Forest is an "incredible natural resource", a "treasure", and a "natural laboratory."
So what did CC Forestry Services do? According to Weitzell, an inventory of 91 acres located off S 10th Street and another 65 acres off S 28th Street. Four thousand trees were counted, and the most dominant species are 1,000 yellow poplars. But Weitzell also noted the existence of spicebush, which deer don't like, as well as some invasive plants like garlic mustard.
According to Weitzell, the City will now form a management committee, conduct a detailed survey and fence off forty acres to deter deer browsing.
"Where will the deer go?" asked Council member Jeanette Eichenwald. Weitzell doesn't really know, prompting city activist Dennis Pearson to speculate that many of them will probably take up residence at Allentown State Hospital.
They probably don't know it's closing.
Eichenwald also expressed her disappointment that the draft report was kept from the public eye, noting that this is what leads to wild speculation.
Dan Poresky, a member of Allentown's Environmental Advisory Council, complained that the "EAC has been looked to for opinions on what is going on, but for the most part, we have no idea what is going on. We're playing catch up."
"Can you categorically state timber production is off the table?" asked O'Connell.
"It never was on the table," answered managing Director Ken Bennington.