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Chehaw closes for tree thinning

Crews are currently working to cut down and clear out roughly 1,000 trees at Chehaw as part of an ongoing thinning project at the park through Jan. 27. Chehaw will reopen for business on Jan. 28.

Crews are currently working to cut down and clear out roughly 1,000 trees at Chehaw as part of an ongoing thinning project at the park through Jan. 27. Chehaw will reopen for business on Jan. 28.

ALBANY, Ga. — It’s something Chehaw has never done in its public area, at least in recent history, and officials with the park say it was long overdue.

Since Monday, the park has been closed for timber maintenance — a process that has involved removing the trees that are no longer healthy or that endanger the health of surrounding trees, in order to more effectively maintain the pines in the public areas of Chehaw.

Roughly 1,000 trees were marked to be taken down in the park’s picnic, camping and play areas. Crews have been working to pull down trees, cut them up and load the timber — which officials say has been purchased by Balfour Timber — onto trucks to be taken out of Chehaw.

Eventually, the stumps that remain will be grinded down.

Ben Kirkland, Chehaw’s natural resources manager, said that this has been a long time coming.

“The vehicles that have driven through have impacted the soil over time, and there are too many trees competing for the same nutrients,” he said. “The (forest) stand will be a healthier stand than before (the thinning).”

Among the trees coming down are diseased trees, trees deteriorated by insects or prone to be impacted by insects, and those standing too close to other trees.

Ultimately, while looking at all the trees, it came down to which ones could stand to remain on Chehaw’s grounds for another five years.

“By leaving healthier trees, we are (minimizing harm),” Kirkland said. “We love trees. We are trying to protect the trees and make sure we keep them healthier.

“Our emphasis has been to remove unhealthy trees.”

The thinning efforts will also allow for the park’s trees to be farther apart, which Kirkland said will help personnel to more effectively maintain the grounds.

This is something that has done before in the wooded areas of Chehaw, but properly doing it in the public use areas required a temporary closure of the park.

“The only way to do this was to close the park,” Kirkland said. “This was a good time of year to do it because we usually have low attendance now, and it is also the best time biologically because there is minimal insect activity and the trees are in a dormant state.”

The thinning project will continue through Jan. 27. The park will open back up on Jan. 28. On that day, as well as Jan. 29, admission to the front section of the park — which excludes the zoo — will be free of charge.

Kirkland said that, by Jan. 28, the clean-up efforts from the maintenance period should be well under way, but will not be fully completed by then. There will also be renovations ongoing on the grounds, he said.