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A Photo of the Big Tree Contest winning entry from 2009, the year the contest was started. It would take about three people holding hands to encircle it. It was located near Ranson.

From Staff Reports

The thirteenth annual Big Tree Contest will feature the dogwood tree in the Eastern Panhandle. The deadline to submit your entry is August 1, 2021. The winner will be recognized at the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District fall banquet. John Overington will present $500 to the winner, or to a charity of choice, and a copy of the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer.

For entry, the tree’s circumference should be measured at a height of 4.5 feet above the ground along with contact information and location of the tree. Forester Herb Peddicord will measure the trees for the official circumference, height, and crown spread after all entries have been received. The contest is open to Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson County residents only.     

Peddicord checks the trees using the criteria of the West Virginia Big Tree Program. Points are determined based on the tree’s circumference at 4.5 feet above ground, total height and crown spread, and the tree with the most points wins the contest.  Each year a different species is selected, and some have set the state record.

The idea for this tree contest came from Overington’s grandfather, Fred W. Besley, Maryland’s first state forester and the longest serving state forester for 36 years. And he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to help determine whether forest land could be best managed through a state or federal system.  In 1924 he started the Big Tree Contest in Maryland and helped take it to a national level years later. The purpose of this contest is to call attention to trees, to increase the public’s ability to differentiate between different species of trees as well as recognizing their importance to the environment.  As we humans use oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, trees and plants do the opposite.”

“We started in 2009 with Dan DeSarno finding a huge Sycamore tree outside of Ranson and being the first winner when no specific tree species was designated.  Since then we have designated other types, including finding  the largest oak, maple, birch, locust, wild cherry, magnolia, pine and other types with this year looking for the largest dogwood tree,” Overington said.

“Since living in the Bedington area on our farm, my wife JoAnn and I have planted thousands of trees.  It is for that reason I donate $500 for the contest winner, working with the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District, to find the largest tree species in the Eastern Panhandle.”

To submit your entry contact either Heather Duncan, at151 Aikens Center, Suite 2, Martinsburg, WV 25404, at hishman@epcd.us or (681) 247-3013 or John Overington at john@overington.com, (304) 274-1791. The contest is open to all Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson County residents.

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