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Visitor safety, forest health focus of tree cutting underway at Hartwick Pines State Park

A couple dozen American beech trees killed by beech bark disease at Hartwick Pines State Park in Crawford County are coming down as part of an invasive species management project to be completed before the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Several sections of the park’s Old Growth Trail will be closed during this time. This 1.25-mile accessible trail is a popular spot at the park, attracting hundreds of visitors a day during the summer. Removing the trees infected with beech bark disease that are near the paved trail, as well as a few dead and decaying white pines also close to the path, is important for visitor safety and the health of the forest. 

Hartwick Pines State Park, which features a visitor center and the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum, remains open while the tree-removal project continues.

“The tree-removal crew will be working on different sections along the Old Growth Trail,” said Craig Kasmer, interpreter at Hartwick Pines State Park. “Signs have been posted and visitors are welcome to come to the visitor center. Our staff will be glad to explain what section the crew is working on a given day. Of course, safety is the highest priority, and we ask that visitors simply be aware that some parts of the trail will be inaccessible.”

The tree-cutting crew is removing the top sections of the trees, keeping the remaining tree “snags” at a height of about 12 to 15 feet. The cut portions will remain on the forest floor in their natural habitat, said Heidi Frei, forest health specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“We’re doing our best to emulate and respect natural conditions and to make sure this process is as low impact as possible,” Frei said. “Old-growth forests are dynamic. Changes brought from invasive pests like beech bark disease are now an increasing threat to Michigan forests and now part of our management in the old-growth forest at Hartwick Pines State Park.

"By leaving these 'snags,' visitors are able to interact and view the dynamic process of change in the forest over time."

The tree-cutting work necessary at Hartwick Pines is part of the DNR's invasive species management efforts within state parks and supported in part by the Recreation Passport

The project illustrates the real threat posed by invasive land and water pests and diseases. The good news? There are easy, preventive actions you can take — like not moving firewood or being sure to clean outdoor gear before leaving a location — to help slow the spread of invasives and protect your favorite outdoor places. Learn more at

Hartwick Pines State Park is also home to a seasonal modern campground, year-round rustic cabin, group-use area, a picnic area and 21 miles of year-round trails. Located in Grayling, it is one of the largest state parks in the Lower Peninsula.

The park is named for its 49 acres of old-growth pine forest, some of the last remaining in the state. The park’s rolling hills overlook the valley of the east branch of the AuSable River, four small lakes and unique timber lands.

Note to editors: An accompanying photo is available below for download. Credit Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Caption information follows.

  • Tree-cutting underway: The tree-removal crew began cutting diseased  American beech trees this week at Hartwick Pines State Park in Crawford County. The project is part of the DNR's forest management efforts within state parks.