Park Ranger Kevin Wright of Carr Creek Lake, Louisville District, received recognition from the Kentucky Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation referred to as KY-TACF, in appreciation of his efforts to restore American chestnut trees.
KY-TACF president, Rick Caldwell, along with board members Rex Mann and Ken Darnell, presented Ranger Wright with a wormy chestnut wood plaque in recognition of Wright’s efforts at Carr Creek Lake for the restoration of the American chestnut tree.
Wright’s efforts include a chestnut display planting at the Carr Creek Lake office, the management “in-situ” of a pure American chestnut tree on USACE lands and the management of a backcross breeding orchard on USACE lands.
As noted prior to the plaque presentation, Wright’s activities are never “just enough.” Wright didn’t just plant a display planting near the office, but he obtained TACF’s three-panel interpretive sign to share the chestnut story with the visiting public. The three-panel sign tells the story of the American chestnut tree, the chestnut blight that decimated the species throughout the eastern U.S. and efforts being made to restore the species to its former range. Wright also has encouraged and hosted school groups at the display planting where he has not only been able to tell them about the American chestnut tree, but also show them examples of living trees – some with blight and some without.
Same with the pure American tree that was found on lake property. Finding the tree wasn’t enough for Wright. He arranged to have some trees nearby trimmed to open up the surrounding area and allow more light to get to the tree. Kevin also fertilized the tree several times over the past few years. This encourages flowering, which this 4.5 inch diameter 35 foot tree has now started to do. The KY-TACF chapter hopes to pollinate this tree next spring to preserve the genetics of this specimen. Offspring from this tree can be placed into orchards to produce additional trees containing the genetics of this tree.
The nearly 200 tree backcross breeding orchard that Carr Creek Lake hosts falls under Wright’s management duties. Wright spent time pulling weeds and mending fences, and he has managed to gather volunteers throughout the years to accomplish much of the orchard management. Even the orchard planting was completed through Wright’s efforts to recruit several high school FFA chapters to come out and help.
Following the recognition, KY-TACF representatives and Wright proceeded to review the display planting, look at access to the pure American tree for pollinating and walked the breeding orchard to evaluate timing for future inoculation (this is the process to determine which trees show the highest blight resistance levels).
The American chestnut tree was once one of the most prolific trees within the forests of the eastern United States. In the early 1900s, a fungal blight was introduced which quickly spread throughout the entire chestnut range, decimating this tree once known as the “redwood of the East.” Nearly one out of every four trees was an American chestnut.
The blight kills the living stem, but does not kill the root system. Often times, these remaining roots will send up sprouts that may develop to a mature (flowering) tree prior to succumbing to the blight. It is from these flowering sprouts that TACF is able to obtain genetic material for their breeding program. The goal of the program is to breed blight resistant chestnut trees that can be placed back out into the forests within the historic range.
More information on the American chestnut tree and efforts by The American Chestnut Foundation can be found at www.acf.org.