This summer the Westford Town Forest Committee will be conducting a forest thinning operation on part of the Martina Gage town forest parcel located on both sides of Gage Road, which is a privately maintained right-of-way in Westford near the Chelmsford line. Martina Gage donated this forest land to the Town of Westford through her will in 1935. She had been a prominent businesswoman and philanthropist that ran the Daniel Gage Ice Company in Lowell for 28 years.
While the entire Gage Forest consists of approximately 75 acres, only a little more than 20 acres is going to be thinned this summer. This will open up the forest canopy and allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, thereby encouraging younger tree growth. This thinning will be conducted in accordance with the Gage Forest Stewardship Plan that was developed by licensed forester John Robbins, and approved by the Westford Board of Selectmen and the Massachusetts State Forester of the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Town Forest Committee has been holding public meetings leading up to this thinning operation, held a site walk for neighbors and interested residents in mid-2018 and has been publishing news articles concerning the upcoming thinning activity.
Robbins assessed the species, age and general health of the trees throughout the forest and has been marking individual trees for removal in accordance with the plan. He recommended a thinning program to promote better individual tree growth and to develop a more diverse age structure in the forest.
The Town Forest Committee recently contracted with Blanchflower Logging, Inc., to conduct the operation. They are a fourth-generation family owned business based in Leominster. Approximately 20 acres of uplands in the center of the forest will be thinned by Blanchflower and some of the toppled trees in the blow-down areas from the violent 2018 summer windstorm will be removed. The thinning and debris removal will also improve access to a portion of the hiking trail between the Gage Forest and the 4-H Fairgrounds to the north. An additional benefit to this plan for limited thinning is that the areas that will have cutting activities are farthest away from Westford and Chelmsford residential areas.
Through the public meeting process, we learned that the residents at the end of Gage Road were very concerned about potential impacts to the roadway by the thinning equipment. Blanchflower Logging, Inc., is fully aware of this concern and will be held responsible for any damage done to Gage Road. Most of the Gage Forest will not be touched during the thinning – this will help protect a brook, a small pond and the numerous wetlands throughout the property. The thinning operation is expected to run for several weeks.
The Westford Town Forest Committee is comprised of three members, each serving three-year terms, appointed by the town manager. The current members are Richard ‘Chip’ Barrett, Hugh Maguire and Jim Gozzo. The Town Forest Committee manages approximately 270 acres of forest lands on behalf of the Board of Selectmen. The Committee’s management goals are long-term; to improve forest health, to maintain and enhance wildlife habitat, improve recreational opportunities and to protect both soil and water quality.