What's New - 2019
The reintroduction of the American chestnut is a major event in the natural history of Sky Meadows State Park.
Ryan Selove wrote the following blog on our Chestnut plot. The American Chestnut Foundation will be out planting at the end of this month and I will update you on what progress they make, including a
full description of the Park's efforts to bring back this beloved and
deeply missed tree.
Selove Chestnut Blog
Many of you have stopped Sky Meadows Rangers in the Historic Area and asked, “what are those white tubes in the field over there?” Glad you asked! In partnership with the American Chestnut Foundation, we are working to preserve the American Chestnut tree. We have designated a portion of our land adjacent to the Boston Mill Road and Hadow Trails as an American Chestnut orchard.
Did you know that, before 1900, the American Chestnut Tree was the most common tree in forests along the United States’ east coast? It provided a vital source of food and shelter for native people and animals, as well as settlers and pioneers. Sadly, in the early 1900s, a fungus traced to an import from Asia (coined the Chestnut Blight) appeared in New York state and, by 1950, killed over 4 billion American Chestnut trees in the U.S. As a result, today you’ll find few American Chestnut trees during your hikes at Sky Meadows.
Yet, there is hope. Our curiosity-inducing white tubes demonstrate a new generation of American Chestnut trees planted by American Chestnut Foundation and Sky Meadows volunteers in Spring 2018. The park is actively helping the orchard thrive by installing protective deer fence around the orchard, mowing and maintaining the land, and supporting the work of the American Chestnut Foundation volunteers. With this work, future generations will see a reemergence of the American Chestnut in Sky Meadows’ forests and beyond, thanks to seeds produced in these orchards. In the words of American Chestnut Foundation committee chair member Cathy Mayes, “Our mission is to breed a chestnut tree that is as close as possible to the one we lost. Sky Meadows was once covered in chestnut trees. Of the seeds we grow there today, those that are most at home in Sky Meadows will thrive, and their progeny ultimately will provide the same food and shelter that the people of the past Sky Meadows depended on.”
Our efforts to preserve the American Chestnut Tree are entwined with our mission to preserve the rich natural diversity of the Crooked Run Valley, which continues to face natural threats. Today, another native tree species, the Ash, is threatened. Like the American Chestnut, the Ash trees once numerous on our land are being killed, not by a fungus, but by an invasive bug called the Emerald Ash Borer, another invader from Asia. Today, the Sky Meadows Staff is working with the Virginia Department of Forestry and volunteers to inoculate and protect “seed trees” across the park with the hope that a control can be found for the Emerald Ash Borer. Like the chestnut orchard trees, these ash trees will provide seed to reestablish ash in our forests.
Many feel the Ash tree is a lost cause. Will this be the case? When future generations of Sky Meadows or other parks’ visitors ask Rangers, “what are those white tubes,” will Rangers tell the tale of American Chestnut and Ash trees? Let’s not wait to play our role. Help us by volunteering.
Discussions are also being held concerning the plight of the three ash tree specimens residing the park. The green, black, and white ashes have all been decimated by the emerald ash borer; the number of surviving ash trees is currently unknown. Plans are currently being developed to survey the exact status of the three ashes. Once this determination is made, futher plans can be proposed to remediate the problem. As with the American chestnut, additional information will be forthcoming.
The decimation of Sky Meadows three ash trees - white, green, and black - may prove to be a human caused disaster on the scale of the American chestnut. All three are in immediate danger of being extirpated from Sky Meadows, if not most or all of the eastern United States. Park officials are currently working on plans to reintroduce the ash trees back into the park. Additional information will appear in this section of the Nature Guide as soon as it is available.
More recent VBS Individual Trail Annual Summery - 2018 Bluebird Project information has been added. More information may be added later.
The Current Observations now has direct links to each species referenced. Common forbs/herbs and birds for each season are emphasized.
Calendar of Events
Crooked Run Valley