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Helms Phillips Forest

Helms Phillips Forest

In 1999 Rick Helms and Carolyn Phillips purchased 206.5 acres mountain valley farm south of Batesville in Albemarle County, Virginia  Their valley, at one time an apple orchard, is defined by Castle Rock Mountain on the west and Long Arm Mountain on the east.   159 acres have been established as a no cut, no development 500-Year Forest that is under easement to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.  In 2005 a consulting forester said he thought it very unusual to see so much mature hardwood forest on one site.


Summer/Fall 2014 Forest Report

Helms-Phillips-Garlic-Mustard-april-2014-SmWith continued support from the Ecology Wildlife Foundation to eradicate invasive species, Austin Jamison of Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage went into the Helms Phillips Forest to tackle garlic mustard and Japanese stilt grass. The garlic mustard effort also let the Foundation for the first time use a Master Naturalist volunteer to audit the work. In his Master Naturalist capacity, former program director Jeff Smith who has subsequently joined the board, visited the Helms Phillips forest.

Jeff’s July 2014 garlic mustard report read:  “I surveyed the spray areas as noted in the map provided. In general, the garlic mustard was mostly gone from the areas. It is, however, not eradicated as my finds will show. I do believe, however, the spraying has made a huge impact in that my sightings were of singular plants or a very minor incursion of multiple plants (maybe 2 to 4). As an aside, stilt grass is quite noticeable on the top ridge along the trail.”

AHelms-Phillips-Ailanthus-Smustin took aim at the remainder of the garlic mustard on a subsequent spraying visit. “I also found some very small ailanthus on the ridge today and sprayed what I found,” Austin said. He proposed treating the areas for 2 more years, once each April and June, to really get them under control.

Rick Helms continued work on ailanthus eradication with the help of independent contractors Kris Smith and Joe Huber. Much of the effort involved clearing fallen trees from previous poisoning sessions.

Earlier Forest Reports

December 2010

Walking the upper forest on Long Mountain.For two years in the late 1990’s, Rick and Carolyn traveled the back roads in Albemarle County looking for their special place. In 1999 they found a lovely and unusual site of 206.5 acres south of Batesville in the upper end of “Big Spring Valley”. Their lower valley, at one time an apple orchard, is defined by Castle Rock Mountain on the west and Long Arm Mountain on the east.

The largest area of forest lies on the north-eastern flank of Castle Rock Mountain. It covers about 105 acres and is composed of hardwoods, aged between 65 and 85 years. There are three coves with streams flowing into Whiteside Branch. Another section of about 54 acres lies on the western slope of Long Arm Mountain. This forest stand is 90 to 120 years old with some trees measuring 40 inches in diameter at breast height. The three most prevalent species in both stands are chestnut oak, yellow poplar, and northern red oak. A third section, 47.5 acres, of this property was an apple orchard and is now a young forest.  This young forest is being excluded from the 500-Year Forest.

Rick Helms and Carolyn Phillips placed their property under a conservation easement in December, 2005 with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. This easement has been modified with language from the 500-Year Forest Foundation. They have given up the right to harvest any timber in the 500-Year Forest, and to further sub divide the property in any way.  This transaction was consummated in the fall of 2010.

June 2012

Probable or Known Extent of Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) infestation across the Helms-Phillips 500-Year Forest

Map showing probable extent of Garlic MustardWe hired Rodney Nice to give us a picture of the invasive plants in this forest. His report and management plan is focused on identifying and controlling unwanted invasive plant species. Native and non-native invasive species are a common site across the Helms Phillips property. These include such species as: Japanese Stiltgrass, Garlic Mustard, Royal Paulownia, Tree-of-Heaven, Japanese Barberry, Multiflora Rose, Oriental Bittersweet, and Devil’s Walking Stick. The report detailed control measures for these invasive plant species. See the accompanying chart for the range of Garlic Mustard. Rick Helms has begun implementing the recommendations.


Fall 2013

SignsUnoSmFormer Foundation director Nancy Weiss recommended Austin Jamison, a Habitat Coordinator with Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage, for forest work. He has met with Foundation officers and visited the Helms Phillips forest twice. He is taking aim at garlic mustard during the winter of 2013-2014 and his efforts are paid for 100% by the Foundation under its Ecology Wildlife Foundation grant invasives initiative. The forest owners have also used matching grant monies from the Foundation to hire help to clear fallen ailanthus trees from the meadow-forest perimeter. Nancy and Carol Wise visited the forest as a volunteer easement monitors for the Virginia Outdoors Foundation in December 2013. They were welcomed by the Foundation’s new Member Forest sign (and family dog Uno).


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