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Montague bike path trees cut

Utility: They posed flooding risk

Recorder/Paul Franz
Trees and stumps are removed from along side the bike path and power canal in Montague.

Recorder/Paul Franz Trees and stumps are removed from along side the bike path and power canal in Montague.

TURNERS FALLS — Recent users of the Canalside Rail Trail bike path will have noticed a small logging operation near the path’s midway entrance off Depot Street.

A stand of trees set in a depression between the high tension lines and the path where it runs along the open edge of the power canal has disappeared. Contractors last week were pulling up the stumps.

Ken Billiel, who works for Cotton Tree Service of Northampton, said the crew felled 215 trees in the previous two weeks and had nothing left to do but the cleanup.

Charles Burnham, spokesman for utility FirstLight Power Resources, said a Federal Energy Regulation Commission inspector ordered the company to clear the trees.

The order had more to do with location than condition, according to Burnham.

The inspector’s concern was that the trees, standing in a depression below the level of the canal, could create a flooding risk if toppled, according to Burnham.

“Their thinking was, with high winds or storms, if the trees fall, the removal of the tree root balls from the dike could create some holes and there could be some issues for those that live downstream in that Turners Falls Montague City area,” Burnham said.

Billiel said about 75 percent of the trees were rotten at the core, pointing out stumps hollowed by rot, having grown too fast in the wet ground below the canal. Billiel pointed to two stumps belonging to trees he said would have been tall enough to reach the power lines if toppled.

Billiel said the temporary gravel access roads for heavy equipment will be removed, pole-mounted birdhouses replaced and grass planted.

Burnham said some bike path users have called, objecting to the logging, and he said there has been a misconception that the utility is making money from the project, which he said they are not. Burnham said the utility’s contract with the tree service called for the removal of the trees but left what to do with the logs up to the contractor.

The bike path, part of the Franklin County Bikeway, is the property of the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation but the bordering land belongs to the utility.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
curtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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