Pine Park trails will close in February

by Savannah Eller | 1/18/19 3:10am

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by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth

Some of the College’s most scenic trails will be closed as trees are removed to improve the health of the century-old and dying Pine Park. The project is set to start at the beginning of February if weather conditions hold and will last two to four weeks, according to associate director of Facilities Operation and Management Tim McNamara ’78 A&S ’12.

The affected trails are part of Pine Park, an area of protected woodland north of campus and abutting the Hanover Country Club. Established in 1900 by Hanover residents, the park is a popular destination for students and town residents alike, according to Pine Park Association president and government professor Linda Fowler. She stressed that this land was “venerable,” as it is the oldest of Hanover’s conserved land. 

During the tree removal, the golf course parking lot, freshmen hill, Cathedral Aisle trail and several other access trails will be closed to the public. Fowler says students and residents will still be able to use the park, but access will be restricted to those trails not in use.

Known for unusually old white pine trees in some areas, the maturing forest has recently received notice for declining health among its oldest or storm-damaged trees. At least four to five acres of the park held a large number of dead or dying trees, McNamara said. The cause of the die-off was most likely a recent increase in the needle cast fungal disease as well as stressors like tree overcrowding and wind damage, he said.

New Hampshire forest health program coordinator Kyle Lombard also assessed the forest and recommended the removal of diseased trees. He said that while the death of older pines followed the natural progression of the forest, too many dead trees would become a safety issue to recreators in the park.

“The problem with doing nothing is that all the trails would eventually have to be closed,” he said. “It just wouldn’t be safe in there with that amount of dead standing timber.”

Fowler said she received a report from a hiker about dead trees along the Cathedral Aisle trail this year, prompting her to call in the College’s forester for an assessment. After meeting with College and Hanover officials, the Pine Park Association in conjunction with the two maintenance entities decided to hire a logging company to remove the affected pine trees.

According to McNamara, the time frame of the project will be decided this week, based on the number of trees needing removal and the logistical effort involved.

Once the project is completed, the Pine Park Association will begin evaluating ways to revitalize the logged areas. One option is to cultivate the natural successor species of pines — hardwoods and hemlock. Young seedlings will have to be protected from invasive species encroachment and deer grazing, according to Fowler.

However the park is conserved in the future, McNamara says the popular natural site will not go back to the way it was.

“It’s definitely going to change the character of the park,” he said.