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Red Pine Trees to be cut down from Ottawa County park

Red Pine trees will be cut down at the county park to improve safety on the trails and improve the park's ecosystem.
Credit: Liliana Murillo

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Higher temperatures in the forecast may have you visiting your local parks again for the first time in a while. But you may see some changes as you walk the trails, such as trees being cut down.

13 On Your Side spoke to Pigeon Creek Park Official, Jessica VanGinhoven about why Red Pines are being removed from the trail. 

"The trees are being removed, because they're not doing well. They're not healthy. They're dying, some are already dead. They're in kind of various stages of life on their way out,” said VanGinhoven.

While seeing trees being cut down may sound unusual, the improvement will provide a safer experience for park-goers.  

VanGinhoven says, “they pose a danger to our park visitors, they could fall down and wind storms or thunderstorms. They can also create fuel for wildfire.” 

She adds that the trees were always intended to be removed. 

"Red pines were planted here with the intent that they would be removed, so think of them like a crop, they were planted here with the intent of being removed.” said VanGinhoven. "In the 20's and 30's, when there had been logging here, there was just really, really sandy soil and lots of sun. Red pines were planted as ground stabilization. And then also because they have really high value for timber products."

The trees are fairly easy to identify, "if you look closely at the trees, you'll see that they're planted in a row," said VanGinhoven.

And the park says they've managed the Red Pines for several years before deciding to throw the towel in. 

"You can keep those stands pretty healthy with routine management, which actually we've been doing here for 70 years. But what happened when we did some of the management in 2009,  we think maybe a fungus got brought in. And so that really, the trees were in rapid decline since then," said VanGinhoven. 

VanGinhoven says the Red Pine isn't a bad tree by any means, it just doesn't belong in West Michigan.

"It's not that red pine is a bad tree," said VanGinhoven, "this just isn't it's most comfortable home."

"I work for the parks department, we don't like removing trees. That's not generally what we're in the business of doing. It can be really painful. It's really hard to watch your favorite park change. But hopefully, what we're accomplishing with this is that we're making first of all the trails, a more safer place to be," said VanGinhoven. 

While safety is a top priority for this project, so is creating a healthier ecosystem in the park. 

VanGinhoven says, "when you plant one thing that's called a monoculture in wildlife doesn't thrive in monocultures, the wildlife thrives in bio diverse places, which means there's a lot of different kinds of plants. And that's what we're going for here." 

The process will be completed section-by-section in park and will create some closures. 

"The process could take a few months, areas of the park and trails will be closed while we do this. So we ask that anybody visiting the park make sure to keep an eye on any signs. Steer clear with any work that's being done, and just, you know, be patient with us while we finish up this management at this park," said VanGinhoven.

While there aren't opportunities to volunteer to help with this project, VanGinhoven says there are other projects the public can get involved with. 

"Certainly there are always volunteer opportunities within the parks on other projects, whether that is invasive species removal, trail repair,  we love our park monitors who walk around trails and let us know hey, there's a tree down here," said VanGinhoven. 

She recommends to visit the website here for more information on how to volunteer. 

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