Last week, Grand Haven Township officials toured the property with forestry experts from the Ottawa County Soil and Conservation District. Township Manager Bill Cargo said that, based on the tour, it appears that large swaths of Scotch pine and Austrian pine should be removed, the areas of natural white pines should be removed by about two-thirds, and native species should be re-introduced.
“The Christmas tree farm as it currently exists was referred to as an ‘ecological dead zone’ because of the lack of diversity, lack of food for native wildlife, amount of disease/fungus on many of the pines, etc,” Cargo noted. “In addition, there are still a number of ‘woody invasive’ bushes that should be removed before these invasive plants spread over large segments of the farm.”
The removal of large sections of pines will appear unsightly for about two years until the property transitions into a more natural area, township officials said. However, that can be somewhat mitigated by leaving some stands of white pines, protecting some of the native plants that have established a foothold and completing the replacement plantings as quickly as possible, Cargo said.
The conservation district forester will direct several foresters to provide proposals for the property so that the township can apply for a Forest Stewardship grant through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“I am expecting quotes from area foresters to be received within the next two weeks,” Cargo said. “I am not certain how long the actual forest management plan will take.”
Cargo also said it is unknown how quickly the grant application to cover a portion of the forest management plan costs would be processed by the state.
“If the township decided to implement part of the Hofma Vision — or forest management plan — using designated (township) General Fund monies, the work could begin during the spring of 2018,” he said.
The Hofma Vision and Park Committee work provides clear priorities for staff, Cargo said, but there is not yet a clear implementation plan or project timeline.