Starting next month, outdoorsy folks will notice some changes in Newberry Hill Heritage Park.
The park, located in Central Kitsap, will be the first site of a forest restoration thinning project under the Kitsap County Forest Stewardship Program.
The work is expected to go through September on a northwest portion of the park, located next to Klahowya Secondary School.
“As Kitsap County begins restoration of our parkland forests, we’re not only improving wildlife habitat, plant diversity and safe recreational opportunities, but growing a sustainable legacy in a long-term public investment,” Commissioner Linda Streissguth said in a press release. “Our county forester Arno Bergstrom and the Friends of Newberry Hill Heritage Park have put years of planning into creating a forest management program that benefits all of us and I commend them for their vision and commitment.”
Some portions of the park will be closed for public safety during active harvest operations. Closures will include portions of Old Loop Trail and Old Timber Road. Signage detailing trail and road closures will be posted at all trailheads and park gates. Alternate trail routes will be marked with detours as well.
Arno Bergstrom said the project will achieve several goals, including improved shrub growth, leaving better habitat for wildlife.
“We’re always leaving the biggest and best trees,” Bergstrom said of deciding which trees stay or go. “This really is not a great wildlife habitat. It’s crowded. You need way fewer trees per acre.”
Some trees are also diseased, another reason Bergstrom and the stewards want to see some of them cut down.
All the trees that will be removed will be removed mechanically. The cut trees will be processed on site by loggers before being sent out for processing.
Some of the trees will be turned into boards and chips and others will be turned into utility poles, Bergstrom said.
Park visitors can expect to see thinning operations going on between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. inside the park, Monday through Friday. Visitors will have full access to the park on weekends and weekday evenings, according to the county’s website.
Bergstrom said that there are no funds for parks like Newberry Hill Heritage. The sale of the logs that are cut will go back into the park, though.
“We’re anticipating positive cash flow,” he said of selling the wood. “The markets are good.”
But it’s things like bathrooms, patrols, trash cans and the like that don’t exist because the county does not contribute funds. While the thinning is a big undertaking, it is being done by volunteers who love the park and want to see it thrive, Bergstrom said.
The current marking of the trees to be cut is done by Bergstrom, an intern and stewards from the program.
“We rely very heavily on the stewards,” Bergstrom said.
Once the thinning is complete, steward volunteers will be back in February for planting. Healthy native plants and trees will be planted to fill in some gaps created by thinning.
“It’s a beautiful place,” Bergstrom said, pausing among the trees in the park. “There’s an opportunity and a stewardship opportunity to help nature along.”