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Town of Montreat: Ceremonial Planting

Town of Montreat Tree Board Chair Ann Vinson speaks on the history of chestnuts in the Montreat Valley.

Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina is the Town of Montreat. Tree Board Chair Ann Vinson began the day’s ceremonial event by telling the crowd of 20 Montreat residents that a historical U.S. Forest Service site survey in 1907 showed upwards of 50% of trees in the Montreat Valley were American chestnut. Then, the chestnut blight struck. Knowing this history, the residents are eager to work to restore this foundation species back to the land.

Town of Montreat Arborist Daniel Wiggs plants a backcross American chestnut.

At the request of the Tree Board and the Town Council, Town Hall Landscape Architect Joel Osgood worked to obtain four chestnut tree seedlings for the Town of Montreat from The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF). After conversations with the Tree Board, Public Works Director Barry Creasman and PW staff member Daniel Wiggs, the Town’s two ISA certified arborists, pulled soil samples from various locations in the Town to determine the best locations for planting. Each location has optimum soil and growing conditions that should help the trees establish themselves and flourish. Each location is visible to the public and visitors to Montreat.

One seedling is planted in the Town Hall pocket park near Flat Creek. It is complemented by an educational sign focusing on the importance of the species to the area and efforts being undertaken to restore the American chestnut. In addition to the Town Hall, seedlings are planted at Moore Center Field and the gate – one on the hill and one at the top of the hill.

TACF Grants Manager Samantha Bowers presents the chestnut sign and speaks on the importance of relationships like this one with the Montreat community.

Grants Manager Samantha Bowers presented interpretive signage and spoke on behalf of TACF. She described the relationship between TACF and Montreat College beginning in 2004 when then Professor Brian Joyce attended a National Park Service conference titled ‘Restoration of American Chestnut to Forest Lands.’ This conference was led by TACF Senior Science Advisor Kim Steiner and Professor John Carlson of Penn State. If you are interested in learning more on this conference’s outcomes you can do so here.

In the years following the conference, Joyce, who happens to be a former student of Steiner, worked with TACF’s former Southern Regional Coordinator Paul Sisco and former Carolinas TACF Chapter President K.O. Summerville to plant chestnuts and send cuttings for propagating. Sisco says, “The best tree on Montreat’s old Terry Estate golf course is a Vanuxem F1.” In more recent years, current Carolinas TACF Chapter President Doug Gillis participated in the Town of Montreat’s Native Plant Sale in 2018 and 2019. It is long-term relationships such as these that create continuity in restoring this iconic species and helps lead TACF to mission success.

We will continue to pass the baton onto future generations such as 8-year-old Ashter who was in attendance. He was excited to share he knows where chestnuts are and wants to send in samples. We look forward to the day Ashter can enjoy shade from the trees planted on this day and carry forward our century-long efforts.