In what will be the second stage of an effort to restore the Hitchcock Woods, the Hitchcock Woods Foundation, in an agreement with the National Wild Turkey Federation, will begin longleaf pine restoration, according to Bennett Tucker, superintendent of the Hitchcock Woods Foundation.

The restoration project begins July 22 and will take about a month to complete.

The Federation received grant funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to begin restoration in longleaf pine areas throughout South Carolina.

“The crew can do about 50 to 60 acres a week, and that’s about 257 acres,” Tucker said. “It may just be a matter of daily temperatures and certain closures throughout the area where we will be working.”

Visitation to the Woods will not be affected, but parts of the Woods will be closed for a period of time throughout the day.

The longleaf pine eco-restoration involves a process of thinning, the removal of selected trees to help the growth and health of trees, that according to Tucker, will be beneficial to the wildlife like quail and deer who live in the area. The thinning will also promote growth of the Woods natural grasses.

“It’s a huge step in effort for our longleaf pine eco-restoration to thin out trees which compete with pine trees and native grasses and plants like wildflowers,” Tucker said. “So by opening everything up, it will allow more sunlight to penetrate the tree canopy and promote the growth of ground cover.”

When the Foundation received the grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tucker was excited because the 20 to 30 year restoration work would instead be done in two to three years.

Aside from thinning, the Foundation used in the past a process of prescribed burning for forest restoration. For the past 30 years, the Foundation has used prescribed burning, but it was an issue due to weather and the urban area.

The next phase of restoration, which will begin 2014 in Hitchcock Woods, includes a follow-up selective herbicide application which will only target the hardwood tress, eventually followed with prescribed burning.

“The Hitchcock Woods Foundation is very pleased to be in a partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Grant,” said Doug Rabold, executive director of the Hitchcock Woods Foundation. “We’re very grateful these funds have been directed for the restoration of Hitchcock Woods.”

Maayan Schechter is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in July. She graduated from the University of North Carolina Asheville with a degree in mass communications - journalism.