Sunday, July 02, 2006

Salty Sunday

Salt Lake City's not all that bad.

Of course, my concerns about the city centered largely on whether I'd be able to find good beer and something to do on a Saturday night. Since we're driving to Montana today -- the site of my sister's wedding next Saturday -- I needed only a few hours worth of distractions.

Walking from our south of downtown hotel last night, we headed towards the heart of the city -- Temple Square -- and along the way saw few fellow pedestrians. On our way back, we stopped at a local brew pub that was one of the best I've ever been to. Great beer, ambiance and outlook on environmental sustainability.

Because I'm on vacation, I'm not really in the mood to stir up controversy. I could write about how I'm glad to see the council Democrats are doing something to make our zoning process more accommodating for citizens. Regardless of whether you think its a political "stunt" (the only word, it seems, some people know), action is action.

Or, I could write about the fallout from Board of Elections' decision to not appeal the recent Comp Lite ruling.

There's also this interesting column by Dan Rodricks in the Sun that, among other things, calls for allowing some of Baltimore's poorest residents the opportunity to have opportunities by moving out of broken city neighborhoods and into strong suburban ones. This, he claims, pave the way for a massive, city-wide redevelopment that could supply a range of much needed affordable housing.

Or, I could tie all these stories into something more.

But I won't. Instead, I want to write about chestnut trees.

The Maryland chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation and the Columbia Association worked together Monday to pollinate a large American chestnut tree on Harper's Farm Road.

"It's a very big, old American chestnut," said Essie Burnworth, president of the Maryland chapter and secretary of the national organization. "It has blight, but it's still blooming and able to bear nuts."

The tree stands in a wooded area, Burnworth said, but Larry and Gwen Peters, former Columbia residents and longtime members of the foundation, noticed a few branches in bloom and notified Gary Carver, chairman of the chapter's American chestnut locator committee. The blooming branches hang over Harper's Farm Road, where they have access to sun, Burnworth said.

A portion of the road was blocked off June 14, and a lift, provided by the Columbia Association, was used to get to 163 of the tree's flowers. The flowers were bagged to prevent natural pollination from other chestnuts.

On Monday, pollen from blight-resistant trees at the foundation's Meadowview Research Farm in Virginia was brushed on the flowers. The bags were replaced and will remain on the flowers until the nuts are harvested in the fall.

The tree is intended to serve as a mother tree in the foundation's effort to restore American chestnuts, which were decimated by a fungus imported on Asian chestnut trees in the late 1800s, Burnworth said.

This is great! Does anyone know exactly where this tree is? I'd love to go see it.

I can still remember years ago my father first telling me about American chestnuts and the sense of loss I felt even though I'd never seen one. The story was prompted by a chestnut leaf he still keeps in an old guide book for Shenandoah National Park, where baby chestnuts grow for a few years before succumbing to the blight. I have since made special trips to the park to get a few leaves myself.

I can't say exactly why the story of the American chestnuts resonates so much with me. Perhaps because it demonstrates how delicate life is, even for thing, like chestnuts, that seem so strong and permanent. It's also a good allegory for the law of unintended consequences. Or maybe it's just nostalgia for a time I've never known.

Or maybe it's a bit of them all.

Whatever the case, the story of the chestnut changed me, helping push me towards two degrees in environmental sciences/policy. Although it's sad to think about the loss of all these great trees and the sisyphusian struggle of those that remain, stories like the one above give me hope for the chestnuts and for us.

But enough with the sentimentality. I've got driving to do, some mountains to see and a zip line to ride.

3 comments:

Mary Beth Tung said...

Heyduke - this is a good story. I love chesnuts too and it would be great if we could bring back the American Chesnut. Also, the American Elm.

We had two apparently blight reisitant trees on our church proeprty in New Haven - probably about the only two left in the "Elm City" which used to boast of boulevards lined with them. Now, they have planted slippery elm, which are not as pretty.

I hope the chesnut project works!

Good luck on the zip line!

Melissa said...

Wow - OK I thought I was the only *young* person with an odd nostalgia for the Chestnut tree! My grandfather used to talk about the grove that used to stand on our farm and spoke about all the fencing and barns that were made out of the trees before they disappeared.

I actually have a few pieces of old fencing that have been made into vases and a picture frame. I have a hard time explaining to people why those particular items have found a home of prominence on my mantle!

I truly hope they are able to make inroads into getting them take root again - what a triumph that would be. My concern would be that other trees have taken their physical space and they might not get the space and light needed to be as dominant as they once were... (But I would definitely make room for them on our farm if they are looking for places to plant them!!)

Thanks for the article - I might not have seen it with all the other stuff going on over the holiday weekend! You're not alone in the impact this tree has on people! Funny, huh?

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