At last week's joint meeting between Poland Village Council and Poland Municipal Forest board, several residents expressed concerns regarding a forest management plan.
The issue again was addressed at Tuesday's council meeting, where forest board of trustees member Eleanor Zedaker said she appreciated residents voicing their concerns over the 2016 Woodland Stewardship Management Plan.
However, she said some people didn't take the time to thoroughly read the plan submitted by certified consulting forester Rick Miller and uploaded to the village's website.
Grace Heath Butler donated the land in 1934 to the village. The municipal forest, which combined that property with a park, was officially established by council in 1938.
However, after a tree-killing insect began affecting the forest's ash trees, officials began seeking ways to protect the property. The forest board commissioned a plan from Miller, who recommended, according the plan's outline, branding the forest with a name, like "Poland Community Forest"; resolving legal uses for the property; defining and adopting a shared mission, vision and values for the forest; establishing a logo; and creating a long-range plan for management.
Community members at the Feb. 28 meeting expressed their oppositions to the plan, citing tree and plant removal as their primary concern, and suggests leaving the forest in its natural state.
"There had been rumors going around that we were planning to log the forest," Zedaker said.
The idea of foresting, she said, may have come from the board trying to come up with ways to make the forest safer for visitors. With the devastation of the ash trees from the Emerald Ash Borer, she said, there is a concern with falling trees.
The local forest contains hundreds of ash trees that are rapidly becoming a danger to anyone walking the trails, Zedaker said.
Forest board member Mark Thompson commented that a woman in Yosemite National Park was killed Monday by a falling tree. In California, two lives had been lost from falling trees this winter alone, Thompson said.
The liability of falling trees was a concern for Councilman Bill Dunnavant. He asked if a sign could relieve the village of any responsibility in the forest.
"One common area is liability on remaining hazards in the forest," he said. "The recommendations were for signs at the entrance that would say enter at your own risk or village not responsible."
Councilwoman Leah Wilson asked Zedaker if the forest board looked at what direction they want to take. Zedaker said nothing has been finalized at this time.
"Would anyone consider a survey of village residents?" Wilson said.
Zedaker said she was open to suggestions on how to get a local one started.
Poland Township resident and Poland Village Gardeners member Ginny Meloy said she favored the forest plan submitted by Miller.
"The large turnout at last week's meeting shows a good number care about the forest," Meloy said. "There are issues in the forest, though, issues like trees that have fallen in the creek and dead and broken trees along the paths."
Dunnavant said a lot of people seemed concerned over maintenance in the forest. He said the grindings used on some trails were breaking up and leaving the trails in poor condition. He added that the bridge needs painted as well.
"We just don't have the funds from the village side [to do that]," he said.
Dunnavant suggested putting a quarter-mill levy on the ballot only for the forest. It would cost roughly $10 per year per $100,000 of evaluation.
"If there is a lot of love for the forest as expressed at last week's [forest board] meeting, then they can show it at the voting booth," Councilwoman Linda Srnec said.
Thompson said the forest board has discussed funding. He said the board was set up to handle the forest, and the members will actively go out and seek donations.
Dunnavant said he would make the motion for placing a quarter-mill levy on the ballot at the next meeting.
On another matter, village engineer Gary DiOrio informed council members of a grant opportunity for traffic signal replacement through Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. He said the first step is to submit a letter of interest for the grant.
Police Chief and Street Commissioner Russell Beatty suggests the village look into LED signals. He said the present old-style signals are beginning to cost more in maintenance.
"The current system is at least 20 years old," Beatty said.
DiOrio said this grant would be available for the 2022 fiscal year. He said it require a minimum of 80-20 percent split. He said if the village could increase its share from 20 percent to 30 or 40 percent, it would get more points and would have a better chance of getting funded.
The estimate for replacing the village's nine intersections with the new LED signals and cameras would cost about $900,000.
DiOrio said he would start working on it and wait for council's approval to move forward. The letter of intent would be due April 1.