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‘Goods from the Woods’ at Grey Towers; chestnut restoration project featured

The New Jersey Forestry Department guides children in the use of a crosscut saw, one of many hands-on activities for youngsters to enjoy during the Festival of Wood in Milford, PA.

July 18, 2012

Family-friendly, free, fun and educational, the eighth annual Festival of Wood will be held on August 4 and 5 at Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford, PA. The popular event offers a variety of activities that demonstrate the many ways wood is used and enjoyed in our everyday lives. Activities, exhibits and programs are intended to heighten awareness of the many uses of this natural resource and of how sustainably managed forests can provide wood today while ensuring forests for the future.

This year’s event will include a Sunday morning hike led by Leila Pinchot, of The Pinchot Institute, who is overseeing the 2012 chestnut reintroduction planting at the Milford Experimental Forest. The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was a dominant tree in the eastern forests of the United States until the non-native chestnut blight fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) eliminated it as a dominant canopy tree species in the early 20th century.

Two organizations, the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF) and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), currently are breeding blight-resistant American chestnut hybrids through a backcross breeding program and are very close to developing final products. In anticipation of the availability of blight-resistant chestnut, it is necessary to understand how to reintroduce the species to its former range.

“This experiment aims to look at how to reintroduce American chestnut into the forest, taking into consideration private landowner objectives,” explained Pinchot. “Most forests in the Northeast are relatively old and don’t let a lot of light onto the forest floor; thus, we will have to harvest some trees in locations selected for chestnut reintroduction. For this study, we have chosen to test the establishment success of chestnut hybrids under several silvicultural treatments.”

Those treatments include: a “shelterwood,” which, in forests with a good oak component, will generate revenue that landowners can use to cover the costs of the chestnut reintroduction; an herbicide treatment to remove thick stands of red maple so as to give the chestnuts more light; and a control treatment, in which nothing is done but monitoring survival, height and diameter growth, to compare among the three treatments. The local study examines the establishment of 552 chestnut hybrids provided by CAES.

The 2012 Festival of Wood

• Unique woodcrafts and art will be exhibited, sold and demonstrated. One-of-a-kind pieces include wood furniture, pipe boxes, sawdust folk art, wooden snowflakes, wood turning, Shaker boxes, wooden bowls, hand-carved sculpture and brooms.

• Children’s activities will include toys and games featuring wood and wood products. Live wildlife programs are offered each day. Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl will visit.

• Educational exhibits and handouts will be provided by a variety of organizations and agencies. Topics include reintroducing the American chestnut, education for forest landowners, U.S. Forest Service wood technology initiatives, invasive insects in the forest, clean water and forests and more.

• Free music with wooden instruments will be provided each day, including traditional acoustic, fiddles and folk tunes.

• All three floors of the historic Grey Towers mansion are open; a $5 fee is required.