The Community Forest is located in the Shadforth Reserve, accessible from Shiffner Street on the north side of the town.
It was established with the initial planting in 2006 on vacant land within the old racetrack. With a further planting in 2007 there are now 8.3 ha trees planted to the west within the trotting track.
How will the Community Forest be used?
This forest has been planned as a mixed species productive forest to grow firewood, posts, poles and sawlogs for the community, and to be a forage resource for beekeepers in the town. The better formed trees will be kept to grow on as sawlogs. The forest will never be clearfelled, just selectively harvested and always with the long term continual improvement of the forest in mind.
The forest also includes many local understorey species. As the forest develops and is managed, we anticipate that it will evolve to mimic the structure and functions of a natural forest. Habitat values for native wildlife will be high, especially in combination with the reasonable number of older hollow bearing trees nearby.
The diversity of species and species combinations on the different soil types within the plantation, with a range of flowering times and foliage types, should provide year-round interest to people walking through and around the forest. Some of the species with foliage dense to the ground are good fun for children.
What kinds of trees and shrubs were planted?
About half of the 5060 plants planted in 2006 were local box and gum trees, wattles and casuarinas, bursaria and melaleuca. Some other plants are native to the region, such as Weeping Myall from north of Echuca or River She-oak from around the Murrumbidgee River. Sugar Gum and Spotted Gum are from elsewhere in South East Australia – but long established locally – and were included because there are provenances of them that are fast growing and straight, with really good wood.
To the east within the trotting track, is 5.7 ha which includes some old remnant grey box trees, and a number of younger grey box trees that have regenerated. This area will also be a productive part of the community forest, and will be managed for wood production as well as for wildlife habitat and amenity values. This area was planted with more trees and especially shrubs in 2007. Only local indigenous plants were used in this area. Managing the forest for wood production will be a chance to demonstrate the excellent wood quality of our local box species in particular, when they are managed for good form and spacing.
Who will manage the area?
The Shadforth Reserve Committee of Management will be re-established to include representatives of all the groups that use the Reserve.
A forest management plan is being written for the forest to set out how it can be managed to give wood products and be a nice place for recreational use, and protect habitat values for wildlife.
In 2006 a grant from DPI / GBCMA, and a donation from the Sheep Pen Creek Land Management Group funded the project. VTAG has been behind the project from the beginning and is prepared to subsidise any shortfall in funding with community funds that they raise from organising the Violet Town Market.
All the planning, organising, ground preparation and planting work has been by volunteer community effort.
What about fire risk?
We take the risk of fire very seriously. Our intention and planning is to reduce the current fire risk. Until the site was burnt in Autumn 2006 it was an extreme fire risk with a very heavy build-up of dry grass. By shading and competition from the trees the volume and density of dry grass will be greatly reduced. Eucalypts are generally very flammable trees, but we have still chosen to use some eucalypt species because they are local, fast growing and hardy with really good wood.
Throughout the first planting, every 3rd planting row will be either casuarina or black wattle. Casuarinas and Black Wattle tend to keep their low foliage, and healthy live trees of these species are far less flammable than eucalypts. These rows are intended to act to cool the intensity of a fire and slow its movement through the forest.
Dead wood greater than 75mm diameter will generally be removed for firewood. Leaves and small branches left after firewood harvesting generally break down in 3 or 4 years. Generally only patches of the forest will be harvested [thinned] in any one year, to avoid harvest litter increasing the fire risk across the whole plantation.
Thinned and managed forest is less dense, and keeps all trees actively growing, and so tends to produce less dry sticks than very heavily stocked eucalypt stands.