County clearing trees at Gibson Woods to improve native ecology

2013-12-16T17:30:00Z 2013-12-16T22:01:36Z County clearing trees at Gibson Woods to improve native ecologyLauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Crews are clearing trees from Gibson Woods Nature Preserve in Hammond in an effort to boost the native environment there, a county official said.

Work began last week "to remove some low-quality native trees," said Craig Zandstra, director of the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department.

"We've had problems over the years there with those seeding into other areas," Zandstra said. "We're trying to encourage more native, quality growth."

The work is being funded through a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The trees are being removed from the south end of the park at 6201 Parrish Ave.

Gibson Woods is the largest dune and swale remaining in Lake County, spanning 180 acres, Zandstra said.

All of the high-quality hardwood trees will remain. Removing the low-quality trees will allow for more herbaceous native growth of grasses and plants, he said.

"For the long-term ecological benefit of the park, it really is a good thing," he said. "It's such a rare piece of property."

Zandstra said letters were sent to adjacent property owners explaining the work and encouraging them to share the information with their neighbors.

"Removing them is not the worst thing, but this winter is probably going to seem a little rough," he said. "Some people may be upset and that's understandable. ... Even for some of the park staff, it's hard to see."

All of the trees being removed will be recycled into pallets, mulch or other materials by the contractor, he said.

The first quarter of the grant funds have been spent, Zandstra said. Removal of trees will continue through March. Crews will return in the summer to treat and remove stumps and ensure seeds from the removed trees are not sprouting in unwanted areas, he said.

Other agencies and environmental groups are doing similar work in sensitive native areas with the help of grant funds, including the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and Save the Dunes, Zandstra said.

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