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Two-Day Program Celebrates 25 Years of the Blackwater Preserve

Lytton Musselman

Research presentations, lectures by botanists and a field trip will highlight the 25th anniversary celebration for Old Dominion University's Blackwater Ecologic Preserve Oct. 29-30. The public is invited to all portions of the celebration, which will be held in Franklin.

Paul D. Camp Community College's Regional Workforce Center will host a full day of events on Thursday, Oct. 29, capped by the presentations of two men who are experts on the preserve and its key species, the longleaf pine. The two lectures by Carl Garrison III, Virginia state forester, and Cecil Frost, retired botanist and coordinator of the North Carolina Plant Conservation Program, will begin at 6:30 p.m.

On Friday, Oct. 30, a field trip will be conducted in the preserve. Vans will leave from the ODU Norfolk campus and Paul D. Camp Franklin campus at 8 a.m. and the field trip will commence at 9 a.m.

ODU's Lytton John Musselman, the Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany, negotiated the donation of 319 acres south of U.S. 460 near Zuni a quarter-century ago. The land came from the Union Camp Corp., which is now International Paper. The corporation has a manufacturing plant in Franklin.

Musselman, the preserve manager, said the creation of the preserve prompted the state to purchase contiguous land. Today, the additional purchases and the preserve make up the 1,000-acre Zuni Pine Barrens State Natural Area.

In the early 1980s, according to Musselman, Frost was his student at ODU, and was particularly enthralled by the pine barrens near Zuni. "He went on to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his Ph.D. and wrote a class report about the property now included in the preserve," Musselman remembered. "He sent a copy to Union Camp and it was so well written they contacted me. I negotiated 319 acres, which was then transferred."

Perhaps the preserve's chief claim to fame is the role it has assumed in the preservation of the northernmost stand of longleaf pines. The trees, once plentiful, almost disappeared in Virginia, largely because their wood and resin were so valuable to shipbuilding and homebuilding in Colonial and Early American eras. Presentations about the roles longleaf pines played in American history will be made during the anniversary celebration.

Thursday's agenda includes a coffee and social time at 10 a.m. in Conference Room B of the Workforce Center, followed by a welcome at 10:30 a.m., and presentations and exhibits featuring research and use of the preserve from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. A lunch will be served between 1 and 2 and a reception is scheduled at 5 prior to the lectures by Garrison and Frost.

There is no cost for participation in any portion of the celebration. However, registration is required by Friday, Oct. 23. The event is co-sponsored by Paul D. Camp Community College and ODU.

Anyone interested in attending should send an e-mail to John Patterson, assistant professor of biology at PDCCC, jpatterson@pc.vccs.edu, or to Musselman, lmusselm@odu.edu. Patterson may also be reached at 757-925-6338 for more information.

This article was posted on: October 15, 2009

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