Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Clear cutting of Belding acres has begun

By Max Bakke
Journal Inquirer
Published: Friday, April 17, 2009 1:10 PM EDT

VERNON — The state Department of Environmental Protection’s plan to introduce blight-resistant American chestnut trees to the Belding Wildlife Management Area started this week and continues to rile a group of Valley Falls residents who argue the project should be done elsewhere.

Dennis Schain, a DEP spokesman, said the project aims to restore the once-abundant trees to the site before a fungal disease called “blight” decimated their population.

“We feel this is a beneficial project and an opportunity to try and restore the American chestnut,” Schain said of the plan that aims to plant 200 seedlings on 2.5 acres near Bamforth Road.

However, several residents along with town tree warden Jeff Schambach have protested the project, arguing it is an eyesore and the DEP is clear cutting several existing mature trees on the site for the plan.

“It’s ridiculous … this is one-sided on the state’s part and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Carmen Martocchio, who lives on Bamforth Road near the site. “It’s not community minded.”

Schambach wrote a letter to DEP officials and neighbors last month, asking the DEP to choose an alternative site for the project.

Schain said the DEP has made efforts to give residents prior notice of the project, and held an informational hearing with neighbors last month. Several trees along an existing town right of way near the road will remain to give residents a buffer from the project.

Maxwell Belding gifted the 282-acre Belding property to the state in 1981. In 2002, the Belding Charitable Support Trust was established by Belding to provide resources to the department for the professional management, enhancement, and long-term maintenance of the site and its natural resources.

The chestnut restoration project also is taking place at Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area in Burlington and at Goodwin State Forest in Hampton.

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