Lesesne is the fifth largest State Forest in the Commonwealth with 421 acres dedicated to a research facility for American chestnut and a wildlife sanctuary. The Lesesne Forest comprises 421.59 acres of timbered, open, and semi-open forestland, two American and Hybrid chestnut orchards, and small-acreage walnut research plots. There are approximately 34 acres presently devoted to American chestnut research with the balance of 388 acres in various stages of successional timber growth.
The Lesesne lies at the base of Three Ridge Mountain and since colonial times has primarily been farmland. Current Cub Creek Road, which forms the southeast boundary, was built through the area about 1740. This section of the county was known as Verdiman’s Pass. Col. John Reid had land patented in this area as well as William Wright, how held 2,160 acres. William Reid was killed by Indias on Reid’s Creek, a short distance from the Lesesne in 1755.
The area was actively farmed until land abandonment began about fifty years ago. Soil maps indicate the land was farmed and pastured at least until 1946. Sometime after, apple orchards were established on the eastern section. A remnant of this orchard still exists and bears fruits each year. There is some evidence of terracing in the mountain areas.
The Lesesne is actually a later day composite of two old farms, known as the Clarkson Tract to the west and the McGann tract to the east, which roughly divides the forest in half. Two old house sites were located at the orchard and the lower spring. Mrs. Ann Dupont Valk acquired the tracts and donated the areas to the Virginia Department of Forestry for American chestnut research. The tracts were named the Lesesne State Forest after Mrs. Valk’s father, Archibald Marian Lesesne Dupont.
Three major drainages originate from the eastern slope of Three Ridge Mountain, transect the Forest, or flow concurrently with the boundary lines, and the flow into Cub Creek. Cub Creek empties into the Tye River about two miles downstream.
Soils on the Forest consist mainly of Saunook loam and the Edneytown-Peaks complex. These are characterized by a brown to sandy brown lam topsoil with clay to sandy clay loam subsoil. Most of these types exist in association with stony surfaces.
1. Continue and expand American chestnut research, as new technology and information are made available.
2. Increase scientific and professional timber and wildlife management through research and demonstration for educational purposes and information.
3. Maintain and enhance water quality concurrently with all activities.
4. Protect watersheds from erosion and subsequent stream sedimentation through applications of forestry Best Management Practices (BMP’s)
5. Identify and designate areas for future American chestnut research.
6. Maximize wildlife habitat diversity through planned management and silvicultural activities
7. Minimize losses from uncontrolled fire, insects and disease, illegal hunting and timber theft.
8. Provide educational and recreational uses through an increased access of system of roads and trails.
Chestnut Research on the Lesesne State Forest
The first planting of chestnut trees on the Lesesne State Forest took place in the spring of 1969, the year the forest was dedicated. Two kinds of chestnut trees were planted: pure American chestnut grown from nuts that were radiated to produce mutations that might provide resistance to the chestnut blight; and hybrid chestnut seedlings provided by Dick Jaynes from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Hybrid seedlings were planted in the lower area where the dedication was held, and American trees and seedlings were planted in the upper area, about a half-mile north of the lower area. Both areas had to be cleared before planting, as they were old, abandoned fields that had been growing for a number of years.
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