FARMINGTON — Safety and community service are major components of the Forestry/Wood Harvesting program at Foster Career and Technical Education Center.
Through the generosity of the Austin family, students in the program have access to an outdoor laboratory for hands on training in a family owned woodlot. The Austin estate is across the road from the high school. Pine trees border a large, open field edged by woods.
It will be the site next May 17 and 18 of the 42nd Annual High School Loggers Meet.
Dean Merrill now helps instructor Rodney Spiller teach the class he once taught.
“Safety is first. We emphasize ‘walk, crawl, run’ and guide the students through each task,” Merrill said.
Before any felling of trees occurs, they practice notching and boring.
Merrill looked on while Neisha Begin demonstrated. She made a face cut, then an under cut to make sure there was no dutch cut or bypass. A bore cut followed.
“She did an excellent job. She didn’t cut out through the face or back. It has a hinge. It’s harder than it looks,” Merrill said.
About two weeks ago the students starting working in the pines near the road. Young rock maples to be left were flagged with pink fluorescent tapes. Orange stripes were painted on pine trees the students would fell. Orange tapes indicated trees that will have their tops removed.
Justin Brooks, a Wilton licensed arborist and program alumni, will be doing that work. The selected trees will be used for the Game of Logging Felling Event during the logging meet.
“I’ve done a lot of logging meets. This is the first time rooted trees without the tops will be used,” Merrill said.
Once the trees and saplings were marked the students started removing unwanted underbrush.
Spiller said, “We’re making it aesthetically pleasing for the new school, opening it up for science classes held here and cross country practices. It was a mess.”
He said the students will be cutting in the Austin woodlot throughout the winter. The harvesting will follow the forest management plan developed by forester and former instructor Peter Tracy of Farmington.
They will also be clearing more of the school’s woodlot. A fire training center is planned there if funding can be obtained, Spiller said.
The students are also working on several community service projects. They worked on a trail at the Cascade Brook School and plan to do more work at the cemetery behind Wal-Mart in Farmington and the Scott Paul Veterans’ Park in Strong. They are currently working on the snowmobile trail near the South Strong Road in Farmington.
“We did quite a bit of work in Strong last year. We’re trying to do community service in areas from all sending schools, not just the Farmington area, so they can see us in their communities,” Spiller said.