Firewise Project

Dear Members,

Two years ago Turtle Cove was notified by the Georgia Forestry Commission that it had been recognized to be at high risk for catastrophic damage to life and property in the event of a forest fire. The Forestry Commission helped us to become a Firewise Community and become educated and take measures to mitigate this risk. As a member of Firewise we have been taking small steps to clean up our community and lower our threat of forest fire. The time has come for Turtle Cove to take a very large step in protecting our community.

Turtle Cove POA has been urged, by both the Georgia Forestry Service and a Wildfire Prevention Specialist, to develop a plan to conduct guided silvicultural measures, in this case, selective thinningof the over-growth in our Common Properties and on our Undeveloped Lots. Because our Common Areas have not been properly maintained for more than 40 years they have become overcrowded, unhealthy and a serious fire hazard.

In all, Turtle Cove has more than 700 acres of land that needs to be thinned. The Turtle Cove Board has engaged the services of Steven Chapman, a Forestry Consultant, to craft a plan to thin our forests through selective harvesting. Our goal is to thin our forests of unhealthy, undesirable trees while causing minimal damage to the surrounding trees, so as to retain the natural wooded feel of our sub-division.

These Silvicultural measures will detract from the beauty of our forests for 18 to 24 months, but when this project is completed our risk of forest fire will be greatly reduced, and when the healthy trees are allowed room to breathe and grow, it will be much more beautiful.

We have added a Firewise page to the Turtle Cove website with more information and a way for you to ask questions concerning this or any other Firewise project.

We hope to have crews begin work by June of 2014. I will be giving you updates as this project progresses.

Thank you,
Gerald Stunkel President
Board of Directors Turtle Cove POA

Any question or concerns can be emailed directly to the Turtle Cove Board of Directors:

Q& A

Q1. Do the 700 acres and the "Common Property" mentioned in your letter include what is known as the Green Belt? Also, will the property owner of an undeveloped lot have no say in the matter?

A1. The term “Common Property” the legal term for what we in Turtle Cove refer to as the Green Belt.  The Common Property accounts for more than half of the undeveloped acreage in Turtle Cove. The owners of undeveloped lots will have choices.  The individual property owners will have the choice of making their property compliant with Firewise themselves, allowing their property to be included in the plan being crafted by the Consulting Forester, or making a request to the Board to be exempted from the Thinning Project.  The Board of Directors will consider each exemption request on its merits, and make a determination whether to grant the exemption or not.

Q2. I have heard many concerns from neighbors about the trees being cut on the common property and owned lots. My questions is this. Are the trees slated to be cleared the small undergrowth or are the large trees being harvested for timber and leave the small undergrowth to grow and mature in the twenty year plan that is vaguely explained on the website. Cutting the undergrowth is much needed but anyone who has been around logging companies know that when they leave, the area looks devastated. I have had timber cut from land so I am very familiar with the complete process from start to finish. I think in all fairness to homeowners and lot owners in the turtle cove community the complete and detailed plan needs to be posted on the website and or mailed to every known owner. As a homeowner I am concerned with the lack of information and communication involving this project. I don't have time to go to hoa meetings so please respond in a timely manner.

A2. The short answer to your question is: I do not know. The decision of which trees to cut lies with the Forestry Consultant, Steven Chapman. He is currently working on the forest fire prevention plan for our community, and will be following the guidelines of both the Georgia Forestry Commission and Firewise.

As recommended by the Georgia Forestry Commission Wildfire Prevention Specialist, the Consultant will do the following:

  • identify areas where it is feasible to conduct selective timber harvest,
  • mark the boundary lines, mark timber for select cut,
  • supervise the harvest to ensure it is done to proper specifications.

The Forestry Service says that it is important for us to do this because thinning the forest, especially pine areas, will greatly increase the health of our forests by removing weak, damaged, diseased, and overcrowded trees allowing the remaining trees to thrive. If these areas are not thinned, we will continue to see tree mortality, particularly among pine trees because of the bark beetles that attack weakened trees typically found in unmanaged forests. This is nature's way of thinning the forest. Those dead trees are an additional fire hazard adding to existing fuel load.

Once the thinning is complete, the Forestry Service recommends we use a masticator which will grind up the limbs and the undergrowth of our forests, removing the fuel from the forest floor.

The Turtle Cove Board of Directors will not be influencing the plan in any way. Both the Georgia Forestry Commission and Firewise representatives will be sending inspectors to ensure the project is conducted as defined.

I share your concern about the effects of clear cutting our forest. Turtle Cove is a beautiful place. We will not be contracting with a standard logging company, and they will not be clear cutting. The Forestry Consultant works with companies which specialize in selective silvicultural thinning. They will cut down only the trees marked by the Consultant.

As information is given to the Board we will relay it to the members. Once the Forestry Consultant has completed his assessment of our forest and has presented the Board with the plan for the recommended work to be done, we will publish it for members to review. Please keep in mind that we have over 700 acres to be assessed and a plan be formulated for. This will take some time to complete.

Q3. I have greenbelt next to me with a lot of fallen trees so we would be in trouble if there is a fire. That makes me very interested in the "Fire Wise" project to clean the debris out. Anyone have an idea of the priority list of areas that will be on the list?

A3. We have not recieved the proposal from the Forestry Consultant, so we don't have an answer to your question yet. He was out this month taking a closer look at Turtle Cove. We, too, are eager to see what the plans are.