25 Acres Of Sandy-Pummeled Atlantic White Cedars In Double Trouble Coming Down

Tract is being cleared because of dangerous conditions

Colin McLaughlin takes a break from cutting Atlantic White Cedars in Double Trouble State Park
Colin McLaughlin takes a break from cutting Atlantic White Cedars in Double Trouble State Park
by Patricia A. Miller

The majestic Atlantic White Cedars have stood for more than 70 years, growing so close together they often block out much of the sunlight on the forest floor.

They persevered through hurricanes, blizzards, droughts, year after year. But Superstorm Sandy was too much for the towering trees.

And now, a tract of 25 acres of nearly 6,000 of the prized trees bordering Carriage Road in Double Trouble State Park are coming down.

"This is all gonna go," said Bill Zipse, assistant regional forester with the state Forest Service.

Carriage Road is an eerie site, even in daylight. Look down the dirt road and cedars - like giant Pik-Up sticks - jut out at all angles.

Tree after tree toppled when Sandy's vicious winds hit the park on Oct. 29, 2012. Others are still leaning, held up only by nearby trees. The area is too dangerous for visitors and has been closed off since the storm.

"This road is still closed, almost a year and a half later, said Samantha Hensen, a forester with the forest service.

The plan is to remove the cedars, and hope that there are enough cones and seeds from the trees to germinate and begin to grown, Zipse said.

The state hired Colin McLaughlin of Pittsgrove-based Advanced Forestry Solutions to do the job. As part of the arrangement, McLaughlin - the low bidder - gets to keep the wood. He plans to sell the lumber to mills in North Carolina.

"There are no mills around here," he said.

McLaughlin works alone, deep in the forest. His hybrid Trackmaster can slice a tree off at the base and lift if horizontally. Rollers strip the limbs off, then cut the tree into manageable lengths.  On a day, he can cut up to 80 cords of wood.

Once the tract is cleared, seeds will have a better chance of germinating in full sunlight, Zipse said.

"It's a declining species that is very important to this culture," he said.

The prized Atlantic white cedars were much in demand in the early part of the 20th century. They were the prime attraction for Edward Crabbe, who bought the Double Trouble tract back in 1904.

Crabbe harvested the cedars and cut the timber in the sawmill, which still stands today in Double Trouble State Park. When the swamps were cleared, he turned to using the land for cranberry bogs, his grandson Daniel Crabbe has said.

Atlantic white cedars stands grow primarily in the Pinelands regions in Ocean, Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May and Monmouth counties. While the population historically average around 115,000 acres, that number has plummeted to just 30,000 acres today, according to a DEP fact sheet.

"Lack of proper management, loss of wetland habitat, theft and illegal harvesting, wildfire, deer browsing a rise in sea level and other natural factors have contributed to a steady decline," the fact sheet states.

The harvesting at the Double Trouble tract has been approved by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission and is aimed at fostering new cedar growth.

But the DEP asks visitors to Double Trouble to stay clear of Carriage Road. The road is blocked off and signs posted warning of dangerous conditions because of leaning trees.

"The road signs are there for a reason," Zipse said.

Colin McLaughlin January 29, 2014 at 07:40 PM
The fact is you have to clearcut the cedar and maintain it after it is cut otherwise it will be a maple swamp. If you would like, the scammers can take you to different sites in NJ and show you how it is done and what it looks like 2-3 years later full of young cedar, then I can take you to a place where nothing was done and it is overcome by maple. What we are doing is the right thing and we have the scientific data and sites to prove it. The reason cedar is on the decline over the past 25 years is because nobody has managed it. As for the serious profit part obviously you don't own a business in NJ and have no clue to what it takes to operate a business of this nature. Please get your facts straight before you pass judgement.
John Walton January 31, 2014 at 08:11 AM
Sorry, not oak and pines, oak and maple will grow. It was not in the interest of keeping the forrest healthy that this was done, it was done in the interest of ,here is a situation we can take advantage of and make $$$. I am really curious about how the bidding process may have been conducted. Sandy didn't destroy that stand of cedar, a fraction of the trees in that area had fallen. If the people who benefit from the sale of the lumber really care about the health of the forrest they will donate all profit to an in independent organization that is devoted to the health and maintenance of the pinelands. And please, don't BS about 'what it takes to operate a business in NJ'. You know you are doing well , and you wouldn't have bid (or whatever) on the job if there wasn't a reasonable or more than reasonable profit to be made.


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