I have been trying to organize a trip with ENTS member Steve Hallow, and perhaps a few other people to visit some potentially good site in southwestern PA. One of the sites I targeted was one called Wright Woods in extreme northern Washington County about a mile west of Finleyville. Today I received a disheartening email and photo from Steve Hallow:
I recently checked Google maps and located the Wright's Wood site about a mile west of Finleyville in Washington county. Since this is only a few miles north of my commute route to work, I thought I would do a little reconnaissance, and make sure the site was accessible, though I promised myself I wouldn't actually enter the site and ruin the surprise. The best access to the site is from the west at Wright's Chapel Cemetery on Mingo Church Road.
As soon as a parked my truck and walked up into the cemetery, I could tell that the site had been clear cut, probably 2 or 3 years ago. Since the site was not posted, I elected to walk into it along a logging road to see how much damage was done. I walked back a couple hundred yards and can confirm that it's pretty much gone. There are only a few thin sugar maples, black cherry and hickory left. I must say that it was extremely disappointing to see this. Such disrespect for the environment and generations of good forest stewardship.
The site had been one of a patch of oak dominated old growth forest.
WASHINGTON COUNTY NATURAL HERITAGE INVENTORY
Prepared by: Jeffrey D. Wagner, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 1994, pp 120-121.
Wright's Woods BDA, Hackett Quadrangle, Section of old growth oak forest - one of the best and last remaining examples in the county.
On the south side of Peters Creek, just west of the town of Hackett, lies a section of shallow slope containing a mature oak dominated forest. Located behind Wright's United Methodist Church, this area is known locally as Wright's Woods. Designated by this inventory as Wright's Woods BDA, this community is classified as a Mesic Central Forest (NC001) and recognized as a High Diversity Area. Below the white and red oak (Quercus alba and Q. rubra) canopy is a sub-canopy and shrub layer of predominately sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Basswood (Tilia sp.), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), white ash
(Fraxinus americana) and a number of other tree species grow within the oak-sugar maple forest, as do a number of shrub/trees like and spicebush (Lindera benzoin), common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), and flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). A rich spring flora of trout lily (Erythronium americanum), spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), false mermaid (Floerkea proserpinacoides), virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) and many other species blanket the slopes, particularly the lower slopes. To the east, the slope transforms to a younger forest of sugar maple and black cherry (Prunus serotina), ending eventually at a driveway and several homes. Confined by an old cemetery and road to the west and by old strip mined land that is now residential development to the south and east, this community stands as a remnant of a forest type that likely once covered large parts of the county.
A number of hiking/walking trails run through the forest and some cutting of individual trees (possibly dead or damaged red oaks) has occurred on the lower slopes. The creek itself is open, swampy in places, and appears to have been pastured at one time. Although some invasive exotic plants like garlic mustard (Alliaria officinalis), multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) and periwinkle (Vinca minor) occur densely in areas surrounding the forest, the interior remains relatively free from these plants. Although this community is destined to transform to a sugar maple forest as the old oaks die, this area will remain, if protected, one of the older forest communities in the county. Critical to the maintenance of this community is limiting disturbance within the BDA and expanding, wherever possible, the buffer areas surrounding the forest. Motorized vehicles should be restricted from within the BDA, and clearing of vegetation or cutting of trees, even dead or downed trees, should be prohibited. The successional areas to
the south should be allowed to return to forest and residential development on the sections of strip mined land should emphasize planting of native tree species that occur commonly in the vicinity. Also of importance is allowing the stream-side vegetation to develop and mature to provide a more contiguous, forested buffer to the slope community.
The area had been studied and core data had been collected from some of the large red oak trees present:
from Rentch, J. S., M. A. Fajvan, and R. R. Hicks, Jr. 2003. Spatial and temporal disturbance characteristics of oak-dominated old-growth stands in the central hardwood forest region. Forest Science 49:778-789. http://community.wvu.edu/~jsr008/pub7.pdf
"Oak establishment tended to be either fixed in time or continuous (Fig. 2). At Collins Woods and Wrights Woods, white oaks (Quercus alba L.) were the oldest trees, and the most recent establishment of this species occurred in 1866 for Collins Woods and 1805 for Wrights Woods. Northern red oaks (Q. rubra L.) were established between 1750 and 1800 and continued until 1877 at Collins Woods, and 1852 at Wrights Woods. After 1850, both sites showed large ingrowth of shade tolerant tree species (maples and American beech) as well shade intolerant species such as yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera L.), hickories (Carya spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.), and black cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh.)."
Also discussing the site is:
Rentch, J. S., M. A. Fajvan, and R. R. Hicks, Jr. 2003. Oak establishment and canopy accession strategies in five old-growth stands in the central hardwood forest region. Forest Ecology and Management 184:286-297. http://community.wvu.edu/~jsr008/pub6.pdf
This would have been a nice site to document, especially with this backgorund information available about the site.