Volunteer efforts ensure a new American chestnut forest on Earth Day 2022

Published May 5, 2022

For as long as many of us can remember, the folks at Amica Insurance have volunteered their time to help their local community. Their slogan is “Amica in the Community– Deep Roots. Strong Bonds.” That slogan took on a new meaning as a group of nine volunteers from Amica’s office in Lincoln, Rhode Island partnered with members of the Burrillville Land Trust (BLT) – a private, all volunteer, non-profit land trust in the Town of Burrillville, RI – to help plant American chestnut trees on Earth Day 2022. “These trees might have the genetic resistance to the chestnut blight and start rebuilding the American chestnut forests of old,” says, Edmund Croteau, BLT Vice President and MA/RI-TACF Chapter member. Edmund helped organize the Earth Day planting at BLT’s Edward D. Vock Conservation Area in Pascoag, Rhode Island.

Under bright skies and cool temperatures, Edmund and Doris Alberg, longtime BLT member and secretary, were joined by Candace Powning and Malcom Drenttel from the Rhode Island Land Trust Council and nine volunteers from Amica Insurance company for the first of many plantings on three separate clearings at the Vock property. “This first planting is a demonstration project of 25 wild-type American chestnuts that were purchased from TACF’s 2022 wild-type seedling sale,” says Croteau. BLT won a $1,200 grant from the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society (RIWPS) for the Earth Day planting and future American chestnut plantings, as well as community outreach related to the American chestnut restoration efforts. “I was flabbergasted that the American chestnut wasn’t even on the RIWPS’s radar and was really surprised when we were informed that they would fund the project,” said Croteau.

Volunteers pictured hard at work to restore the American chestnut tree on Earth Day, 2022.

The idea for the Earth Day planting started with an email from the Malcom Drenttel to BLT President Paul A. Roselli, to see if the land trust had any Earth Day volunteer opportunities for a group of volunteers from Amica Insurance. “Have I got a project for you,” said Roselli.

On April 21st at 9:00AM, the group of 13 met at the Edward D. Vock Conservation Area. “The typical Earth Day volunteer activity focuses on picking up trash along a road or pond. They were surprised when they learned that they would be planting trees. And not just any tree either…we would be planting American chestnuts!” stated Croteau. A few weeks earlier, the site had been cleared by Friends of the Burrillville Land Trust. Before the planting started, Edmund gave a short presentation on the history of the Vock property, the indigenous people that lived there, and the blight that nearly destroyed the American chestnut. He then gave a demonstration on the correct way to plant bare root saplings. “They were a great group,” said Croteau, “they were excited to be planting and learning about American chestnuts, so much so that they asked if they could come back and check on their tree’s progress.”

Paul Roselli, President, Burrillville Land Trust