September 18, 2008

City Seeks Best Value for Wood

By Scott Taylor

AUBURN - Burning wood from the city's urban forests to heat homes this winter might be a waste, city officials say.

"The fact is, we might be better off selling that wood for other uses, and using the profits to help pay for heat this winter," Recreation Superintendent Doug Beck said. "There is a lot of potential in our community forests, and it's our job to develop it for its highest and best uses."

That doesn't mean simply burning the wood, Beck said. He recalls that the city discovered plenty of high-quality red oak in the Mount Apatite Park years ago when the city was carving recreation trails there.

"That wood was sold to veneer mills, and it commanded a much higher price than it would have if we'd have just sold it for firewood," Beck said.

He said much of the wood in city forests is softwood, not the best-suited for firewood or veneer, but great for wood pulp.

"So maybe we sell that wood to a pulp mill," he said. "The point is, we need to be sure of what we have before we can start talking about how we're going to spend it."

The Lewiston-Auburn Community Forest Board will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, in Auburn Hall to discuss the city's Community Cords program, an effort to use wood from city land to help heat homes this winter.

Beck said the city is looking to hire a community forester to inventory the city's trees and see what can be cut. The forester will also draw up a forestry plan, showing which areas of the city should be cut and which should be preserved.

"That's why we want to hear from the public, so they can tell us how they'd like to see the city's lands used, for recreation and for public safety," Beck said.

Mayor John Jenkins unveiled the idea last month as a way to help people heat their homes. Jenkins identified 460 wooded acres around schools, in parks and along recreation trails that could provide wood.

Originally published by Staff Writer.

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