By Stephen Williams & Cady Kuzmich
The town of Clifton Park can’t immediately go in and begin cutting potentially dangerous dead and dying trees in the Kinns Road Park, Saratoga County officials said Wednesday.
The town had wanted to have a BOCES forestry training crew come in starting this Feb 5, but County Attorney Stephen Dorsey said the cutting work should be prohibited until the county and the town have both signed a management agreement.
“There’s no authority from any committee, any board, to do anything at this point,” Dorsey said at a meeting of the county board’s Economic Development Committee in Ballston Spa.
The committee voted to approve a draft intermunicipal agreement, but it won’t be final until approved by county supervisors, who are expected to act Feb 23, and by the Clifton Park Town Board, which town Supervisor Phil Barrett said may not act until early March.
The property is owned by the county under its forestry program, though for the last 40 years it has been operated in practice as a Clifton Park municipal park. The two sides decided to negotiate a formal agreement after the county late last year proposed selective harvesting of trees, generating opposition from both the town and a number of residents who use the park for walking their dogs, hiking, skiing, and other recreation.
When Kinns Road Park frequenters heard Saratoga County planned to temporarily close the 64 acre park for a commercial logging project, they didn’t sit idly by.
Paul Rutherford, who often takes his dog for walks through the park, created a short video incorporating an animated singing tree with googly eyes being chopped down by a crazed lumberjack. All silliness aside, Rutherford asked Clifton Park residents to speak up — and speak up they did.
On Dec 21, Clifton Park hired Richard Cipperly to create a management plan for Kinns Road Park. Cipperly’s resume includes 34 years with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and 18 years as a consulting forester in the Adirondacks. He worked with the town in the 1970s making recommendations for the future of the property. Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett explained Cipperly was chosen for the task since he is “familiar with the park and has the expertise to complete a thorough plan for the future of Kinns Road Park.”
Cipperly advised against any large scale logging but insisted it is important for the forest’s health that dead and dying trees be removed from the property. Unhealthy trees near trails and around parking and picnic areas will be targeted.
Town officials say they want to remove dead and dying trees that could fall, but not conduct the kind of revenue-generating forest management tree-cutting the county planned. “We will strictly remove dead and dying trees,” Barrett said. “There is no revenue in dead and dying trees.”
Not anticipating a problem with the county, Barrett said the Clifton Park Town Board signed an agreement with the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES to remove the dead trees, at no cost to the town. Work would have been over a 10-day period starting Feb 5.
Town of Clifton Park Director of Communications and Technology, Dahn Bull said the collaboration with BOCES would have been a “great symbiotic relationship.” He explained, “Students throughout the County get a chance to learn the trade of forestry and the town is offering a cost-free location for them to practice. It also helps to eliminate the costs associated with the removal of dead trees.”
Barrett said he will convey the county’s position to BOCES and hope to reschedule the work.
“This was a solution on two fronts: Removing the dangerous trees and the expense of removing the dangerous trees,” Barrett said.
Both sides are also working on developing “home rule” legislation that would legally transfer the property from the county to the town — a transfer that would require approval from the state Legislature, since it was a state forestry program in the 1930s that gave the land to the county, on condition it remain forested.