Major tree cutting planned for peninsula |

Major tree cutting planned for peninsula

FRISCO ” Skiing at the Frisco Nordic Center will soon feel very different. Because many of the center’s trails pass through forests of heavy pine beetle infestation, the town of Frisco has decided to remove more than 9,000 beetle-infested trees.

The town’s 10-year forest management plan for the Peninsula Recreation Area includes clearance of nearly all the mature pines around the Nordic center’s Frisco Bay trail and the disc golf course

“I won’t deny there’s some big changes coming down the road,” public works assistant director Rick Higgins told the town council March 28 during his presentation of the plan.

Tree removal will begin some time late this month or early in May, and the south side of the property near Highway 9 will be the first area thinned. Higgins estimates close to 3,600 trees will be removed this year.

Despite its drastic impact on cross country trails, Frisco Nordic Center concessionaire Gene Dayton told the council he supports the plan.

“The beetle hits us right where we live,” he said. “It’s not something that’s easy to take emotionally. I think we can make a big difference in the approach we take.”

Once cutting begins, Dayton said, he intends to help the town in any way he can.

“It breaks my heart to cut down old trees,” he said. “But our biggest concern is to preserve the quality of skiing over the long haul.”

Councilmembers Bill Pelham and Gary Runkle both expressed regret about removal of all the large trees in the zone.

“I don’t think we have any choice,” Pelham said.

Other areas of the town-owned property will continue to be monitored for the pine beetle, and infested trees will be removed annually. Some areas without significant infestation will be commercially thinned.

Frisco town manager Michael Penny told the council removal of dead trees was vital for the health of the recreation area.

“Do we wait for the trees to turn red and blow down, or a forest fire?” he asked rhetorically. “This is our version of fire containment.”

The first three years of the plan will cost the town an average of $80,000 a year. After that, Higgins said, the plan will be re-evaluated. Nordic trail routes may need modification at that point. The overall number of trees requiring removal may eventually exceed initial estimates.

“Every bit of 9,000 trees, maybe more,” he said, when asked about the total tree count. “It could be closer to 12,000.”

The growing pine beetle problem throughout the recreation area prompted Frisco to hire a consulting firm, Western Bionomics in Steamboat Springs, to study overall vegetation health on the town-owned section of the peninsula. The report, completed last fall, divides the town’s 217 acres into distinct zones, depending on beetle infestation and general health.

The tall pines on more than half the town acreage, including most of the area around the Nordic center, were found to be well past maturity and under attack from the pine beetle. Many of the trees under 6 feet tall in the same zone proved to be infected with mistletoe, a destructive plant parasite.

The consultant recommended removal of all mature lodgepole pines in this area, even those without evidence of beetle infestation, as well as removal of all pine seedlings heavily infected with mistletoe.

“The understory will become more productive if the older trees are removed,” Higgins said, referring to the younger, smaller trees.

As in the past, the majority of the removed trees will be hauled to a sawmill in the Montrose area for disposal. The town is developing a plan to solicit proposals from contractors for tree removal, Higgins said.

Higgins emphasized the long-term focus of the plan is forest health, not pine beetle control.

“Tree stands will be healthier, more resistant to forest pathogens, diameter and height growth will accelerate,” he said.

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