A tug-o-war continues over Monocacy Hill, a 420-acre Amity Township forest with five miles of trails, 160 to 170 species of wildflowers and 17 species of birds.It is a tug-o-war over lumber. In fact, members of the Monocacy Hill Conservation Association, a group of volunteers who are working to preserve the forest, say the group formed due to township officials discussing the option of using the Hill to generate funding for Amity's Parks and Recreation program.
"We (conservation members) always felt the Hill was too valuable for logging," said Helen Brower, vice president of the association who remains unalterably opposed to logging in the forest.
"People go there for hiking and photography. Its primary use is open space," she said.
However, supporters of a plan for selective lumbering or "harvesting" say money generated would help benefit the forest and help improve its health after a history of degradation.
"The forest is one dimensional and he said that it has more mature growth and not a whole lot of younger growth," said Chairman of the Amity Township Board of Supervisors Richard Gokey.
Gokey said an environmentally responsible harvesting effort in the forest could benefit both the local ecosystem and the township in its conservation efforts.
He supports selective timbering, cutting down trees that are older to sustain the forest and using most of the revenue from the timber to fund park and recreation departments of the township.
On the environmental side, Gokey said one of the recommendations made by Tim Dugan, an assistant district forester with the William Penn State Forest District engaged by the township, was to establish younger growth at the Hill.
"Our mission is to work with those landowners to achieve sustainable forestry," said Dugan.
A forest stewardship committee was formed about a year ago to examine such issues allowing members to talk with forest experts about timber harvesting and how to preserve Monocacy Hill.
The committee has hired Dugan to write the stewardship plan and Gokey said that whatever recommendations the forester makes, the township and committee will follow.
Dugan said the Bureau of Forestry is in full support of harvesting.
"I've been to several meetings there and with private landowners, there's going to be conflict," he said.
Dugan defined timber harvesting as the act of cutting down trees to sustain and manage forests.
With the forest being a renewable resource, the revenue could help the township but since the Hill is collectively owned, the decision to conduct timber harvesting is made solely by township officials', he added.
Gokey said Dugan has suggested selective timbering to allow for more younger growth in the forest.
Still Brower argues that according to the deed on the property, all money received by the township for the Hill from federal or state sources is supposed to be used for open space.
As a result, Brower said that if logging were to happen at the Hill, all money made from the harvesting should be used for preservation.
"People enjoy the trees the way they are and if the trees are cut down, it will disturb the forest, Brower said.
She said the association's goal is to maintain the forest in its current state and discourage any disturbance, including lumbering.
Risa Marmontello, president of the association and a member of the township's park and recreation board, said in an e-mail that the association's members are opposed to using the recreation area to generate income for purposes other than the Hill because it has been maintained for almost 20 years by volunteers and has cost the township so little.
"Monocacy Hill has also never received any recreation fees that have been designated to other recreation areas in the township," Marmontello added. "We simply do not feel that it is fair to use harvesting to make money for use elsewhere."
She also said the group has other reasons for opposing the lumbering proposal.
"Monocacy Hill has had a long history of timber harvesting and other uses over the last 250 years," Marmontello said. "It now has a significant problem with invasive plant species.
Every disturbance to the forest whether natural or man made increases the spread of these invasives and further degrades the health of the forest."
Marmontello said that invasive plant species compete aggressively for the resources that native plants need to thrive.
She added that any timber harvesting operation, regardless of how carefully it is done, makes significant disturbances to soil and canopy.
"The canopy opening allows more sunlight to the forest floor which in a healthy forest is not a bad thing, because that would allow for regeneration of native plants and trees," Marmontello said.
"But in the presence of invasive plants in or near the harvest area the invasives are the plants that will take over in many cases preventing native regeneration," she added.
Recently, township officials and members of the Monocacy Hill Conservation Association were not able to agree on whether or not selective timbering should be done.
"I've found in municipal government, you're never going to please everyone," Gokey said. "Do the majority of citizens want timber harvesting? I don't know that answer."
"Whatever project you're working on, you have to balance both sides," he added. "Some people want Monocacy Hill to stay the way it is. I can understand that."