Public responds favorably to park management plan
By Stephanie Johns
About a dozen members of the public were in attendance last Thursday night to hear a resource management plan for Hard Labor Creek State Park.
Their overall reaction to the plan: favorable.
Ray Boyd, a park neighbor, said, “I’m pleased to see the plan.”
Tommy Breedlove, another park neighbor, later added, “As long as you do what you say, we’ll support you 100 percent.”
Randy Tate, natural resource program manager for Georgia State Parks, presented the plan.
The meeting announcement provided to the public said the plan was created following a public meeting held in 2012. During that meeting, the public was invited to comment and provide input for the plan.
The announcement also noted that high priority management areas include forest and timber, fire management, invasive and rare species, wildlife, and aquatic resources.
Stands that have been clearcut recently will be hand-planted through February at a rate of 600 to 750 trees per acre. The new trees will be thinned in about 16 years.
An application of herbicide to remove competing plants preceded the hand planting, which began in December.
Breedlove requested that park management notify park neighbors prior to applying herbicide.
Tate said they could try but application is “very dependent” on the weather. He added there is no more spraying until the fall of 2013.
As noted in the plan, “This plan specifies no clearcutting but this harvest method does have merit and must be retained as one of many forest management tools.”
They plan to thin commercial stands of loblolly pine and to request proposals to conduct final thinnings or seed tree/shelterwood harvests of mature loblolly stands.
As to buffers or shelter belts, “in harvest areas adjacent to developed property lines (primarily in the mature pine stands), attempts will be made to extract pines while leaving a mid-story of hardwoods as a visual buffer.”
The plan calls for wider stream management zones and timber inventory cruises. The cruises will occur as soon as resources become available.
A fire needs assessment also will be conducted as resources become available.
The plan noted that “a permanent firebreak system will be delineated using natural and existing breaks as possible” and “burn plans will be prepared on an annual basis for appropriate units following established protocols.”
The plan provides information as to how park management will deal with invasive species, from pine beetles to weeds to feral hogs.
Steps in dealing with these species include monitoring forest health conditions across the park for pine beetles. They plan to pursue funding to treat widespread weed infestations and to “assist USDA with (feral hog) population reduction measures.”
USDA stands for United States Department of Agriculture.
The condition of the park’s deer population will be reassessed before the two-year hunt cycle. Post-hunt spotlight surveys will be performed as well.
Rare plant species will be protected from “land disturbances, timber operations, fire (where applicable) and invasive species.”
When it comes to protecting the bald eagle, they plan to stay in touch with the Nongame Section for additional guidance and to monitor nesting success each year.
Tate said it is a good sign that the bald eagle is coming to the park.
Shan Cammack, fire management officer for the Nongame Conservation Section, later explained that the birds’ presence indicates a healthy lake with healthy fish and a good foraging habitat in the park.
Dan Schay, manager of Hard Labor Creek State Park, added that there is a lot of bird activity at the lake as well.
Aquatic resource management within the plan directs them to “support DNR Fisheries as they conduct their annual fish inventories and stocking program.”
DNR stands for Department of Natural Resources.
Regarding the Walton County reservoir construction project, Schay said they are on track with it. Those interested may monitor the reservoir project at http://hardlaborcreek.com/.
Copies of Tate’s presentation were provided to those in attendance. The entire 99-page plan is available online at http://www.gastateparks.org/Staff/Plans/HLC-RMPlan2012FINAL.pdf.
Now that the plan is complete and has been presented, the next step is to implement it. During implementation actions will be “monitored and re-evaluated” and may be adapted depending on science, personnel, operating priorities, and budgets.
Printed in the January 17, 2013 edition.