2nd Annual Arbor Day Tree Planting Event
to Restore the American Chestnut
Field Trip by Coal Creek and Elk Valley students
to a Reclaimed Surface Mine on Cross Mountain

12 April 2010

For the second year, students from schools in Coal Creek and Elk Valley grew American chestnuts in classroom nurseries and then transplanted them to a surface mine site to celebrate Arbor Day.  In addition to planting 400 American chestnut seedlings, students from Briceville Elementary, Lake City Middle, Elk Valley Elementary, and the Anderson County Learn Center planted 1000 oak, poplar, walnut, and pine seedlings.


How's this for a classroom?

Students planting trees on Beech Grove

So what do Coal Creek and Elk Valley students have in common?  When Welsh miners lost their jobs in Coal Creek to the convict lease system in 1877, some of those miners and their families moved north along the railroad and settled in Elk Valley.  After more jobs were lost to the convict lease system in 1891, miners challenged the state of Tennessee over the practice during the Coal Creek War.  Miners from Elk Valley rallied to support the miners from Coal Creek in the fight to abolish the convict lease system in Tennessee.  Miners who fought during the Coal Creek War wore bandanas to show they were part of the miners’ army, which explains the origin of the bandanas worn by our tree-planting army on Cross Mountain today.
Last year, Coal Creek students traveled to Elk Valley for a planting event at National Coal Corporation’s Zeb Mountain Surface Mine.  Students from Elk Valley and Coal Creek reunited this year for another mission, this time to restore the American chestnut to Coal Creek as guests of the Coal Creek Company.

Students become skilled in
planting with a dibble bar


Prior to the early 1900’s, the American chestnut was king of the Appalachian forest, but a blight carried by Chinese chestnuts killed most of the American chestnuts during the early part of the 20th century.  For the past 25 years, the American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) has been developing a hybrid, which is 94% American chestnut and 6% Chinese chestnut.  The hybrid will retain the virtues of the American chestnut as a large forest tree with a sweet-tasting nut, but with the blight-resistance of its Chinese cousin.

The Appalachian coal fields are at the center of the historical range of the American chestnut.  Furthermore, researchers have found that trees grow faster on mine sites reclaimed by leaving loose, rocky spoil exposed at ground surface than in a natural forest.  This new reclamation technique is called the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) and mine sites prepared by this method are ideal locations for introducing the blight-resistant hybrids to the natural range of the American chestnut.


For the past 30 years, the traditional method for reclaiming surface mines has been to cover the sites with compacted soil and plant grass and trees for quick growth to control erosion.  That’s how this surface mine on the slopes of Cross Mountain was reclaimed in the 1980s.  To enhance tree growth at this site, topsoil and grass were recently removed and the underlying spoil was ripped.  The loose, rocky ground may look rough, but it’s ideal for growing trees.  Rainfall infiltrates rapidly into the loose, rocky spoil where it irrigates tree roots and there is no competition from grass for moisture and nutrients.  After these trees produce nuts, wildlife will spread them to surrounding areas.

A special “Thank You” goes out to the folks at the Coal Creek Company for providing a site to plant our trees.  We also want to thank the folks at the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) for assisting us with the trip and providing crew leaders for the planting teams.

UPDATE photos of
trees 14 May 2010:

Click on images
to enlarge:

Chariots of Hire
drivers shuttled students
up the mountain

Can't do without
Big Al's!

Thanks to the church for allowing us to park

Vic Davis from OSM
discussing the Forestry
Reclamation Approach

Anderson County Mayor
Rex Lynch participating in
this educational experience


Bandy, Earl
Beals Ferry, Carah
Bowen, Bud
Bowling, Tamara
Byrge, Jimmy
Davis, Vic
Douglas, Terry
Evans, Jack
Foust, John
Galloway, Brent
Good, Shelby
Gunn, George
Hatmaker, Joseph
Haywood, Tom
Jackson, Jessica
Jenks, Brian

Lynch, Mayor Rex
Lyon, Bill
March, Miranda
Moore, Carol
Reed, Denise
Rudder, Tim
Scarbrough, Nichole
Shields, Keith
Smith, Jackie
Stevenson, Brittany
Thacker, Barry
Walker, Craig
Wall, Jason
White, Hailey
Yellen, Harry

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