2012-03-01 / Front Page

Public Meeting Held On Forestry Management

Mason-Dixon Boy Scout Council, foresters meet with public on future of Sinoquipe
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER

More than 100 people crowded into two rooms at Hagerstown Community College last Tuesday evening to give their input on a draft outlining possible timber management practices that, if approved by the Mason-Dixon Council of the Boy Scouts of America, could be utilized in the future at Sinoquipe Scout Reservation.

Current and former Scout leaders as well as Scouts were among those on hand for the February 21 meeting that was formally opened to public participation through a letter penned by Council President Jeanne Singer. In speaking with the “News,” Singer noted it was likely “premature” to hold a public meeting. However, since the emergence of a rumor that substantial forestland was slated to be clear-cut at the Scout camp located in Fort Littleton, a decision was made to open the meeting to concerned residents.

Singer stated the “uproar” based on the unfounded rumor “kind of blindsided” her. In fact, she noted it was “unfathomable” to her how anyone would think the board would approve that type of venture.

“We haven’t cut down a tree in over a year,” said Singer, who took over as council president in January 2010. “ ... We’re not clear-cutting 270 acres. I was shocked when I first heard it.”

Providing a time line of how the council came about in obtaining the services of a certified forester and eventually a timber inventory report and management plan, Singer explained Thomas O’Neal,of Clearville, Pa., was hired in 2009 to perform a “quick inventory” of the 475-acre camp. Based on his findings, in the fall of 2009 the Council’s Executive Committee approved a cut. Approximately 45 acres of trees were timbered during the harvest.

Singer explained the council may have deferred to a professional forester in this matter, but Camp Director Jack Rhodes maintained “veto power” during the operation. Subsequently, O’Neal was brought on board to prepare a more formal management plan that could potentially be incorporated as part of the council’s long-range master plan.

With the public meeting now behind them, the timber management plan is slated to be presented for review to the Council’s Properties Committee. Singer anticipates it could be at least six to nine months until the matter comes to the full board for consideration.

O’Neal, who carries more than 30 years of experience, was in attendance to go over details of his report. Goals and objectives include “maintaining a safe, natural setting for the true Boy Scout experience; providing a total outdoor educational experience by providing the proper forest atmosphere; and maintain a healthy forest through best timber management practices to naturally regenerate the next forest for years to come and aid in offsetting the costs of running Camp Sinoquipe.” In his report O’Neal noted the campgrounds and living quarters would be off limits to any tree harvesting activity unless there are safety concerns present. “Maintaining these campgrounds is essential and a core component for the operation of Camp Sinoquipe,” he said. Timber stands across the property consist of white pine, white oak, mixed oak and mixed hardwoods.

“All timber stands listed above with the exception to white pine are uneven aged, meaning trees of all ages and sizes exist through the stand in question,” stated O’Neal. Based on timber species, board foot volume and dollar value, harvesting the entire property could potentially bring in a grand total of $576,394.48.

Timber management options presented by the forester in the plan seemed to revolve around the phrase “multi-use.” “It is not just about the trees, it is about the atmosphere they provide to help complete the Boy Scout experience. This is something money cannot buy,” he explained.

“Camp Sinoquipe is a place with a lot of potential where the multi-use concept can be successfully applied. The timber re- source was never managed professionally. This resource if enhanced will provide a wide array of benefits for future generations. These benefits will support and add to the rich history of Camp Sinoquipe in the form of education while offering financial relief for the camp at different intervals over the course of many years. Timber is a renewable resource that needs attention. My favorite saying is that it takes the same amount of time to grow a bad tree as it does to grow a good tree. Camp Sinoquipe is no different. It just needs attention,” concluded O’Neal.

In addition to hearing comment from the certified forester, the crowd also heard from Buchanan State Forest District Forester Jim Smith and fellow forester Dave Scamardella on the topic of forest stewardship. Stewardship involves education and providing information to private landowners on sustainable forestry practices.

According to reports, a 10-year stewardship plan was previously penned with the Mason-Dixon Council for the campgrounds in 1998. However, the document was signed by someone without the proper authorization and therefore invalid. There appears to be interest on the part of the council in getting back into the program. Cost-sharing is available through NRCS to help with the writing of the document, but if denied the council would have to fully-fund the project.

Scamardella and Smith noted since the Scouting movement revolves around stewardship and the environment, the stewardship program would “dovetail nicely” with itsr mission. In fact, Scamardella has been invited since the meeting to speak with Scouts at Sinoquipe during the seven-week summer camping season.

Smith concluded Mason- Dixon Council and the Bureau of Forestry have had a longtime working relationship. He added he is looking forward to any future projects that would involve the camp and stewardship.

McConnellsburg resident Ed Stenger, vice chair of the Great Cove District Committee, said he had not been aware of what was brewing in the council in regard to Sinoquipe. Furthermore, he had not known about the previous tree harvest at the camp.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s the right thing to do,” said Stenger. “When you talk about best land management practices, though, sometimes that can be a good thing.”

He agreed a stewardship plan would lead the council in the right direction when it comes to meeting its goals of preservation and conservation. Having attended the public meeting, Stenger said he had the opportunity to read the forestry plan and felt the repeated references to income seemed to be the main reason or focus of the document. He said the council executives assured the crowd that assumption was not correct.

“Hopefully, in hearing everyone’s comments, they realize the need to go in the right direction,” stated Stenger. Stenger said among the other comments geared toward the council officials was teaching young Scouts about practicing good conservation and then showing them a clear-cut area and explaining that too is good conservation.

“No one is disagreeing a plan should be in place to preserve the camp, but the focus shouldn’t be on making money,” said Stenger.

Singer, council president, indicated in the event a timber sale would ever be done at the camp, ideally the plan would be to funnel the proceeds into a capital fund account for future improvements at the camp. She said in the past the council has been remiss in its attempts at building up the fund.

Among the projects already on tap at Sinoquipe is the demolition of the Trading Post and creation of a new administrative building. Singer said the situation with the Trading Post needed addressed as it is practically held together with “duct tape and baling wire.”

The project will likely get under way in the next several weeks. A hold-up was encountered recently when a suggestion was made to relocate the proposed admin building across the roadway from the Trading Post. However, the move would likely cost the council an additional $250,000.

The current plan is slated to cost approximately $350,000. The funding is already in place, Singer reported, as five generous donors stepped forward with contributions. The new facility will hold a trading post, restrooms, a small meeting room for training and a health lodge.

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