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Conference brings media and environmentalists to Robinson

Matthew Largess is seen above, pointing in the direction where he said, "a known Native American village held religious ceremonies and manufactured clay pots."
By Erin O'Connor

Staff Writer

AGAWAM - "Logging is not a bad thing but on a major river-you don't do that," said Matthew Largess, a former logger and proprietor of Largess Forestry, Inc. in speaking of logging plans for Robinson State Park.

"In the park there are already land slides and steep unstable soil conditions that exist along the river bed. So if you log, then the area will be destroyed," said Largess, "If you have a major flood, then you will get a slide like what happens in California and you will have trees floating through Springfield."

Largess had a press conference at the Park last Friday. He was joined by Kathie Breuninger and Donna Jago of the Friends of Robinson State Park; John Calandrelli, of the Connecticut State Forest; Rod Parlee, chairman of a local conservation commission; members of the Westfield Watershed Project and members of the Press.

Largess announced his plans to fight the State logging in the park and how he would like to see funds raised for a nature center in the park.

"I have looked at every forest in the country," said Largess, who resides in Jamestown, Rhode Island, "When I came out to Robinson to see an urban Park I did not expect much, but then I got here and it blew my mind."

Largess said that Robinson is one of the greatest urban forests in America.

"It is home to 43 different species of trees, 13 different forest communities, home to the black bear, many animal species that are endangered such as the fisher cats, a mink-type animal, and tulip trees" said Largess.

Largess also said that the park is the location of an Indian burial ground information based on a report done on the Park in 1979 that can be found at the Public Library.

"This park is located several miles away from Springfield and still has a strong enough ecosystem to inhabit bears," Largess said, "Bears are an umbrella species. If a bear is in your forest then that means your forest is perfect. They are a sign of the wilderness."

Largess, who learned of the logging plans by the state from Friends of the Robinson State Park, came out to the Park on June 26 with Robert Leverett, a nationally recognized authority on tall trees and old growth from Holyoke.

"While at the park, we discovered it contained the largest hickory tree in Massachusetts," Largess said.

The proposed logging of 2,700 trees would greatly hurt the ecosystem in the area Largess said.

"You are several miles from Springfield. You must think about air pollution. Two large trees is enough oxygen for a family of four for a year. Think about 2,700 trees. You are cutting down Springfield's oxygen supply," he said.

State Foresters say that the logging is to benefit the condition of the forest but Largess said, "This is not true. If the logging is done it will further cause the expansion of the white tale deer and white footed mice populations that carry the deer tick and bring in Lyme disease. The holes where the trees were create grassy areas that is the feed for these animals."

"As an outsider coming into this forest I do not know if the people fully realize what a wealth they have,"said Largess.

"You can't build a classroom like this," said Largess.

Current plans to begin logging on Robinson State Park were originally scheduled for the middle of July then postponed to November due to Indian Artifacts discovered.

Parlee of the conservation commission spoke about not seeing an environmental impact report for the area and that one must be conducted as procedure. Residents received letters on June 27 stating that this was a ten day notice of the cutting.

Largess' e-mail is The Massachusetts Department of Conversation and Recreation's e-mail is