BELPRE - Local citizens worked Sunday to help ongoing efforts to reestablish the American Chestnut Tree as an important part of the local landscape.
Around 14 volunteers involved with the Belpre Tree Commission and the Belpre in Bloom project planted around 50 chestnut trees at Memorial Park in Belpre near the entrance to the Memorial Bridge.
The plantings were part of an effort started last year when the two groups secured 25 saplings and then had an additional 50 saplings donated, said City Auditor Leslie Pittenger who heads up the Belpre in Bloom project.
Volunteers — including Mayor Mike Lorentz —planted American Chestnut saplings at Memorial Park in Belpre and put down ground cloth.
A group of volunteers spent part of Sunday afternoon planting 50 chestnut saplings, including from left, Bryce Pittenger, Jim Nelson, Cathy O'Donnell, Joyce Lorentz, Loran Conley, Gretta Bayne, Jackie Cassady, Mayor Mike Lorentz and Leslie Pittenger. Not pictured were Susan Abdella and Rod Joachim.
"We put those in a number of big pots so we could get them established," she said.
The plan was to plant them in the ground last fall, but conditions were too damp and organizers wanted to get the trees in the ground by early spring.
City crews were able to drill two rows of holes on the slope of the hill, 8 inches wide by 2 feet deep, for the volunteers to be able to plant the trees in.
"The trees were placed about 10-15 feet apart so they will have a chance to really spread out," Pittenger said.
The saplings that were not planted Sunday were left in their perspective pots to see if they would grow more before being put into the ground at a later date.
Volunteers placed landscaping cloth around the planted seedlings and in a week or so, they will come back and put mulch down to better define where the trees are so they won't get mowed.
"They will have a good chance to thrive and spread out," Pittenger said.
A fungal blight in the early 1900s devastated the American Chestnut trees in the eastern United States. Various groups have been attempting to bring it back through work combining aspects of the American Chestnut with a Chinese form of the chestnut tree that is resistant to the blight.
As the trees take root, volunteers will return to stake the trees and position them so they will continue to grow.
"We are not done yet," Pittenger said.
With warm weather and rain projected for the coming week, volunteers thought this was the perfect time to get these trees into the ground.
"We were able to bring back a native species to southeastern Ohio today," Pittenger said. "We increased our tree canopy by another 50 trees and it was all done with volunteers."
This is a win/win for everyone.
"Community spirit is alive and well in the city of Belpre."