SDG COUNTIES, Ontario - A popular trail system in SDG Counties will be closed for a period of months later this year to accommodate much-needed forest maintenance in Summerstown.
Approximately 36 hectares of the Summertown Forest will undergo a select harvest as SDG Counties works to mitigate the damage created by the Emerald Ash Borer - an invasive insect species that has devastated Ash trees in our region. Forest operations, which will be completed by a local contractor, will begin in July and will last a few months. It's anticipated the trail system will reopen for public use before the 2024/2025 winter season.
"Summerstown Forest, which is owned by SDG Counties, has become a popular amenity that hikers, snow-shoers, cross-country skiers and families enjoy year round," said Phil Duncan, SDG Counties forestry coordinator. "The work is required in order to improve forest health and minimize the potential risk to recreational users. We thank trail users for their patience and understanding as we complete this work."
Planned forest operations are important for a variety of reasons, with forest health and safety being paramount. Ash trees, along with other trees that are declining, will be methodically removed to allow for the residual trees to flourish. The SDG Counties Forest is certified through the Eastern Ontario Model Forest, and adheres to international standards for sustainable forest management. The intent of the harvest is to improve forest health, salvage infested ash trees and maintain or improve the ecological value of the property.
"SDG Counties is being proactive in its approach to minimizing the impact to trail users by systematically implementing a harvest operation which will benefit the forest for years to come," said Duncan. "Staff have begun the tree-marking process, where we examine each tree within the forest, looking for structural defects or signs of infestation. Trees painted in orange will be removed. At the same time, key wildlife features such as cavity trees, mast trees, and other important wildlife trees are painted with blue and will remain untouched."
SDG Counties works hand-in-hand with its partners to ensure necessary work is completed with an eye to inclusion. The Friends of the Summerstown Trails have been longtime partners in ensuring the Summerstown Forest remains a popular and active outdoor amenity in SDG Counties.
"We have been in direct conversation with the Friends of the Summerstown Trails since early 2023," said Duncan. "We have worked with the group on the plan and are working together to accommodate the work and improve the health of the forest."
Recently, SDG Counties undertook several harvests, including close to 20 hectares within Warwick Forest, outside Berwick. SDG Counties forests are managed to provide a long-term supply of timber, which provides both economic opportunities and revenue within the Counties. Most of the wood products will be sold locally, and any revenue generated from timber sales is utilized to acquire more forested land.