Pittsfield Highlights Chestnut Seed Orchard to Celebrate Arbor Day
Between 4 billion to 5 billion of the trees crowded the Eastern United State's landscape and was used for construction and food for both humans and animals. It was economic for wood and nut harvesters. It was a fixture in the ecosystem for wild animals. Farmers used the nuts to feed livestock. Telephone poles, split-post fences, shingles, musical instruments, railroad ties were all built with the timber.
"It was the dominant hardwood trees in the Eastern forest," said Brian Clark of the Massachusetts and Rhode Island chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation.
But in the early part of the 20th century, a fungus was imported from China and Japan that the American Chestnut has little to no resistance to. By 1950, nearly all of American chestnuts in Massachusetts had died and hillsides throughout Appalachia were left barren.
More recently, arborists in the United States launched what could be considered the most aggressive effort to repopulate the landscape with the species. That effort includes Springside Park, where a seed orchard is located. Hundreds of seedling were planted inside a locked area of the park two years. More plantings will be done this year and the trees will be standing 6 feet to 8 feet tall in just a couple years.
The young trees are being inoculated with the fungus and their resistance will be measured. In about 10 years, only 20 or so will be left — but those 20 will have full resistance that they will pass on through their seeds. Those next generations will be distributed for re-plantings.
"We've got six of those orchards started," Clark said of the regional effort.
The seed orchard at Springside Park was highlighted on Friday as the city celebrated Arbor Day. The event featured a proclamation from City Council President Peter Marchetti declaring the holiday and the planting of two more hybrid American chestnuts in the orchard.
"Pittsfield has a long history being involved with trees and tree projects," Parks and Open Space Manager James McGrath said.
Not only is there the seed garden, the city also won a grant to replant trees at Wellesley Park and the state announced a Greening the Gateway Cities program to plant some 800 new trees in each of the next three years. The city has also brought on arborist Bob Presutti as a staff member to manage the city's landscape.
There has been somewhat of a rejuvenation at Springside. A new master plan has been developed that includes a wide mixture of priorities — including conservation, recreation, restoration of the Springside House and the pond. In those plans, educational opportunities have been cited and the orchard is one of those.
"This is a park for everyone, a real diversity of usages. But, it is also a park people want to help out," McGrath said, citing cleanups and other volunteer efforts.
For Marchetti, Springside was the "park of choice" when he was a child growing up in the Morningside Neighborhood. He reaffirmed Mayor Linda Tyer's commitment toward those efforts to improve the park.
"Springside Park is a true gem and asset to the city of Pittsfield," Marchetti said.
To conclude the event, Clark and McGrath's son, Ian, planted two new trees in the orchard.
Tags: arbor day, chestnut, orchard, Springside Park,
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