By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
The wrath of Sandy is still visible in Stokes State Forest several months after the Superstorm hit.
“The aerial survey of Stokes State Forest has shown over 1,000 acres of forest that were damaged by the winds from Sandy,” said Regional Forester Jack Shuart of the New Jersey Forest Service.
“When we came here the after the storm had ended, we basically got to the campground area and we couldn’t get in here because there were over 300 trees that had fallen down on a quarter mile stretch of road. These trees were stacked 20, 30 feet high,” said Stokes State Forest Superintendent Josh Osowski.
In addition to fallen trees, there are some that are leaning and unstable. But hundreds of damaged trees have been removed so roadways and nearly all of the trails are clear and open. However there’s still plenty of work to do. And the longer the downed trees remain, they could become a fire hazard.
“We have what he have light fuels which are the small branches, the needles, the leaves. As heat from summer and the dryness of the summer approaches, this fuel will dry out and will lead to a greater fire danger,” said Shuart.
So what’s the plan for these downed trees? Many of them will be put to good use. One plan calls for using some of this wood to help repair structures damaged by Superstorm Sandy. And some of this wood may be put out to bid for commercial uses such as pellets, mulch and lumber.
“Some of this wood will be going to the High Breeze Farm …, some will go here in Stokes,” said Shuart.
The damaged trees are also providing firewood for campers. And residents and pick some up if they’re willing to chop it. And even though the long term goal is to remove as many downed trees as possible, some will remain.
“There’s pros and cons to it. It’s going to change some of the habitats for wildlife, anything from insect right up to mountain species. So we realize we’re not going to try to clean it all up. One, because of all the benefits; two, we physically can’t do it,” Shuart said.
A preliminary plan calls for possibly planting new trees to replace the lost ones. But there’s hope natural regeneration will occur, meaning the remaining trees will re-seed the area and regrow the forest by itself.