MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Chestnut Mountain Ranch (CMR) partnered with the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF) on Saturday, May 21, to plant 24 American Chestnut trees across their campus.

From the beginning, the CMR has been building this children’s home and school with help from mission teams. Robert and Joanne Rorke were a part of a mission team from Atlanta, Georgia that was helping. Robert Rorke came to executive director and founder of the CMR, Steve Finn, with the idea of partnering with the ACF to plant trees with the young men of the home.

It took about 6 months to organize and plan the planting of the 24 trees.

The CMR has planted apple and landscape trees before, but this was the first time involving conservation and chestnut trees. According to the ACF, over the course of 50 years, American chestnut trees were reduced due to a deadly blight pathogen called, “Cryphonectria Parasitica.” These chestnut trees spanned from central Alabama to northern Maine along the Appalachian Mountains. The Ranch wanted to use this opportunity to bring a part of history back to West Virginia.

An American Chestnut Tree sapling in front of the chapel (WBOY Image)

Mark Double, president of the West Virginia AFC, came to the school on Saturday to teach the young men how to identify, plant, protect and hydrate the trees. He also taught them the different types of American chestnut trees, in which they planted a variety across three locations on their campus.

When talking about why planting these trees are important, Steve Finn said, “today we’re planting these saplings, and a lot of times with the boys that we serve here, they come to us with a lot of wounds, a lot of anger, a lot of sadness and regret from decisions from their past or things that may have happened to them, and we’re taking these, we’re taking these sapling trees of these young men and we’re slowly growing them into a mighty chestnut.”

While the CMR planted 24 trees today, they want to take a step further next year. They want to be able to have American chestnut trees at different stages of growth.