Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness has branded recent work by Coillte in Jenkinstown Wood, near Kilkenny city, as an "act of vandalism".
However, the forestry manager for Jenkinstown says Coillte is committed to “improving rather than desecrating” it.
The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and a regular walker in the wood, Deputy McGuinness has joined growing local dissatisfaction at the felling of trees in the woodland.
“It is a job that was executed very poorly in my opinion, and if it was a private citizen who did it they would be brought up for an act of vandalism. If you look at pictures of it before and after Coillte went in, there is a very stark contrast,” said McGuinness.
Situated 10 kilometres north of Kilkenny city, the wood contains some trees from the 1870s.
A carpet of bluebells flowering each April is a special feature at Jenkinstown — as can be seen from the many photographs online.
Local photographer and former local councillor Noel Frawley walks in the wood five evenings a week, and was one of the first to raise concerns about the way Coillte went about their business.
“There’s no disease at all, they just felled two parts of the forest and just left it there all rugged, with bits of trees and bits of bark sticking up everywhere out of the ground, which is very dangerous because it’s a family area, families go there every Saturday and Sunday”.
Coillte forestry manager for Jenkinstown, Michael Power, rejected claims of mismanagement, and defended the work as partly in keeping with their publicly consented biodiversity plan for the area, and partly in reaction to damage from Storm Darwin.
“On the 13th of February we closed Jenkinstown Park, as we did a lot of the amenity woods in the area, because they were dangerous. We went in with a machine and removed all the timber and all the blown trees and cut them down. Then when people got back in, they took the attitude that, ‘’God, look at all these trees gone, Coillte are actually selling Jenkinstown, they’re using the storm as an opportunity to do that’. Now, that’s not the case. We would never do that, and I as manager would never allow that. People have to accept that the storm we had in February was something that we haven’t seen in years.”
Mr Power said Coillte is committed to “improving rather than desecrating” Jenkinstown Wood. He also confirmed that the cleared area of the woodland will be replanted with native broadleaf trees this fall.
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