Ash Harvest On Hold at Door Bluff Headlands

Door County’s Airport & Parks Committee has reversed its Aug. 8 decision to harvest the Emerald Ash Borer-endangered Ash trees at Door Bluff Headlands County Park, at least for now.

At its Jan. 7 meeting, the committee heard from a half-dozen residents opposed to the committee’s plan to harvest the threatened trees in three stages, with the first third of the trees to be harvested next winter.

Parks Director Erik Aleson had also received an email on Jan. 3 from Jensen Wheeler Wolfe, the great-granddaughter of Jens Jensen, who created the park.

“He would be greatly disturbed, as I am, that you would unnecessarily destroy these trees,” Wolfe wrote. “This park was created as a sanctuary in 1946. I’d like you to consider reversing this decision. We need to protect not eliminate these natural settings.”

Others who spoke at the meeting, including Mike Grimm of The Nature Conservancy and consulting naturalist Bob Bultman, said while they are not opposed to logging, logging trees from the thin-soiled forest at the park could affect the health of other trees, and the resulting gap in the canopy could open the forest to more damage in the high-wind area.

“This level of disturbance is not healthy for the forest and the whole eco-system,” Bultman said.

After public discussion, committee chair Richard Virlee outlined several directions the committee could go, including doing nothing, or waiting and watching what happens at the park.

“We’ve had a fair amount of education of why we should harvest, and over the last months a lot of education from the public why we should not harvest,” he said before opening discussion to the committee.

“I think it’s a correct thing to do, go in there and clean up the ash. I think it’s a mistake to do nothing,” said committee member Ken Fisher, who suggested that the committee put any decisions on hold for a year.

“Give it a year and see what happens,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s going to hurt one way or another if we put off any decision making on it until at least next January.”

Committee member Joel Gunnlaugsson said he agreed with Fisher’s idea, but introduced his own motion to put the harvest on hold while the committee explores other ideas and gathers more public input to come up with a long-range management plan for the park.

Gunnlaugsson also mentioned that while the original idea was to harvest the trees before they are infected by EAB in order to get the most value out of them at market, they will still be valuable as firewood if infected, which caused Virlee to make a point for the public.

“This has never been about the money,” he said. “This committee, there was nothing in it for any of us. We acted on education from our meetings, and then more education from the public. It was never about making a whole bunch of money.”

Gunnlaugsson’s motion was unanimously approved.