Managing a small woodlot depends heavily on having good access to the woodlot. Without good access it is nearly impossible to do good management. The layout of where roads and trails will be established will be influenced by many factors. In this short blog I’ll touch on some main points that I hope will get readers thinking about their need for access and do more research into proper locations and construction.
One of the first questions to ask yourself is “Why do I need or want roads and trails?” The most probable answer is, to remove harvested products. If you are managing your woodlot then at times there will be quantities of harvested products to remove. Having an access road that allows for trucks to pick up the products, relatively near to where they are harvested, can be vey beneficial and in most cases a necessity. However, people own and manage woodlots for many different purposes so the need for roads and trails should keep the objectives of the owner in mind. Roads and trails can have multiple purposes and this is the way we look at them on Watts Tree Farm.
At Watts Tree Farm we are fortunate to have relatively flat terrain and very few wetlands or water course to deal with. As the woodlot is relatively long and narrow it made the most sense to locate one main road, more or less, in the center of the property. The woodlot is managed for multiple purposes and therefor the design and locations of the main road and secondary trails takes into consideration more than one use.
Lets look first at the main access road. If my only objective was wood extraction then the most efficient road would have been perfectly straight in the exact center of the property. However, we are interested in recreation, aesthetics and wildlife in the woodlot along with economics. Therefor, when the main road was laid out it was designed with slight turns to actually reduce the “sight distance”. The road is used as much for walking and enjoying the scenery and wildlife viewing as it is for removing harvested wood. In fact I would say we use it much more for these secondary uses. By having shorter sight distances it makes the walking much more enjoyable. There is always the excitement of what might be around the next corner. The woodlot is home to many species of birds and mammals and by having slight curves in the road it occasionally allows us to get a little closer to viewing some of this wildlife. At the same time, the curves do not hinder the slow movement of trucks or machinery that might “occasionally” have to come in to pick up a load of logs, Christmas trees or for managing the blueberry field. If you are planning to construct a forest access road you should consult professionals in your region. There will most likely be environmental standards or restrictions that you must adhere to.
Trails, just like main access roads, can have multiple uses as well. They are used more for recreations and wildlife viewing but they can also be use for extracting wood using my ATV (All Terrain Vehicle). The decision of where to locate and how wide to make the trails is dependant on the type of machinery you have to do your management. It also may have to do with the type of management to be done in a certain part of the woodlot. For example, in areas where I intend to remove my annual fire wood by either strip cutting or selection cutting I will create a slightly wider trail that will accommodate my ATV and trailer. In areas where I do not expect to be harvesting firewood the trail will be narrower.
Recently I have decided that I need to significantly add to my trails in the woodlot. There are parts of the woodlot that I have not visited for several years and if I had a proper trail system I would most likely visit these areas more often. I enjoy walking through my woodlot and that addition of more trails will make it more accessible for me and anyone else who want to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.
Having access for management or enjoyment are a very important component of owning a woodlot. The locating of these should reflect your personal needs and preferences. But sometimes the locations may be, in part, determined by physical land conditions or by regulations or laws. All of these things should be taken into consideration but by all means, make sure you do develop a system of roads and trails that gives access to the woodlot.
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Until next time, keep safe and well.
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