Forest management techniques designed to reduce the forest fire danger to retirees in Holiday Heights and restore some of the Pinelands habitat in 500 acres off Davenport and Dover roads in Berkeley Township will be used over the next three years.
The New Jersey Audubon Society has federal funds for the tree thinning and planting operation, its outreach coordinator, Suzanne Treyger, told Ocean County’s freeholders.
Homeowners in Holiday Heights have received letters outlining the work that will reduce the potential fuel load for a wildfire and support the work, she said. Trees and brush will be thinned along the border of the 500-acre Hovnanian Sanctuary, named for the Holiday City at Berkeley developer. Interior tree trimming will be done too, to allow more sun to reach the floor of the pinelands and allow native species to return, much as they would after a forest fire.
In addition, a 13-acre Atlantic White Cedar swamp that was cleared to make a blueberry plantation will be cleared and planted again with those native trees. Treyger said when the blueberry plantation was abandoned red maple trees took over the site. They will be felled so 10,000 white cedar seedlings can be planted there. To keep deer from eating the trees, deer fence, 6 feet high, will be erected around the swamp, she said.
Foresters from the Audubon Society and the state will guide the work. Treyger said once the forest is thinned, controlled burning like that done at nearby Double Trouble State Park will be used to consume the fuel that might feed a fire right up to the development that has several thousand homes.
Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. wasn’t sold on the idea of thinning the interior of the tract, saying that will “dramatically change the pinelands."
“It will be a very select cut,’’ Treyger replied. Doing nothing poses “the huge risk of a catastrophic fire,’’ he added.
Bartlett said catastrophic fires are a part of the pinelands ecology.
Kelly said the only thing that has changed is that “developments were put in the middle of the forest. The forest hasn’t changed, man has added all those homes.’’ Treyger offered to take the officials on a tour of the thinning operations to show them what will be done.