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Outdoor school's Earth Day celebration features opening of Chestnut Tree Interpretive Center

April 30, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • Daved Paddack, 17, of Hagerstown, prepares to cut the ribbon Saturday at the dedication of the Chestnut Tree Interpretative Center during the Earth Day celebration at Claud E. Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview. Paddack built the center to fulfill the requirements of his Eagle Scout project.
By Alicia Notarianni, Staff Writer

In the early 1900s, blight hit chestnut trees of the southeastern United States.

Believed to be accidentally imported through Asian lumber or trees, the disease left fields of dead stumps in its wake. The mass extinction was considered to be an ecological disaster.

In July 2009, staff at Claud E. Kitchens Outdoor School at Fairview planted an experimental variety of chestnut trees.

Tim Abe, head teacher at the school, said Gary Carver of Penn State University provided the seeds for a genetically engineered strain known as B3F3.

"It's an experiment, really. Our attempt to beat the blight," Abe said.

Meanwhile, the school acquired display boards from the National Chestnut Association summarizing the history of Chestnut blight.

When Daved Paddack, 17, of Hagerstown, approached Abe wanting to do an Eagle Scout project to enhance the school, the chestnut tree display came to mind. But while Abe asked for a simple exhibit with an awning to "keep the weather off" the boards, Paddack had something more in mind.

He met with an architect and designed a pavilion among the newly planted trees to shelter the three display boards. The project cost around $1,200, which Paddack said he raised among friends, family, his church congregation and local service organizations.

"Now, we have a working Chestnut Tree Interpretive Center where we can educate visitors about the history of the American Chestnut," Abe said.

The dedication of the center was a featured event at the outdoor school's Earth Day celebration Saturday.

Many attendees of the celebration also participated in the Fairview Fishing Rodeo at Willow Pond. Admission and activities were free, with prizes awarded in various age groups. Around 200 people took part in the celebration.

With Earth Day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment, Abe said the opening of the interpretive center was "the perfect tie-in."

"People are here, outdoors, on this beautiful day in nature with family and friends," he said. "I don't think it gets any better than that."

Coincidentally, Abe said, a worker contracted by the Board of Education to clear dead trees from the 100-acre outdoor school facility just identified the only two known mature chestnut trees on the site about two weeks ago.

"Though the trees have survived, they do have the blight. You can tell by the cankers on the bark," Abe said. "They're alive, but they are dying."

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