NRAO, PCHS and an area business team up for a new forestry project

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank maintains an admirable reputation for its involvement with community and school activities in Pocahontas County. Now, the observatory is collaborating with students from PCHS and an area business, part of a new project that’s going to benefit everyone involved.

Butch Wirt has been the facilities engineer at the observatory for 12 years now. He said the pine trees along the road in front of the observatory were planted intentionally to protect the site from interference along the roadway.

“Basically from spark plugs from vehicles going down the road,” says Wirt. “The trees I guess, they’re about 50 years old now, so they have gotten to where they’re no longer as effective for that. Once the trees have gotten so tall, you don’t have the interference protection that you did forty years ago.”

Wirt said this project is going to allow the forestry class to follow a timber sale from start-to-finish.

“This was a project that the high school forestry department is taking on,” Wirt says. “They’ll be cutting down half the trees now, replanting, and then probably over about a four to five year period, taking down the other half and replanting there.”

Wirt said the NRAO has been throwing the idea around for a little while now, and it’s nice to be able get started.

“We’ve been talking about this for several years, and it just came around this year that it worked out,” he says. “They started I guess, I want to say three weeks ago probably. It’s kind of a long term project, it’ll be done in phases.”

Judy Fencecraft Inc., in Bartow, is partnering up to provide help with the timber sale, and Wirt said all of the proceeds are going right back to into the PCHS forestry program.
Wirt said you can’t put a price tag on this kind of an educational experience.

“It’s interesting for me just to watch the students out there, says Wirt. “The students are very excited, they really are. It is real world experience. I was just telling Scott [Garber] today, I hope the boys understand the value of what they’re actually getting there. The hands on is, I think is, tremendous.”

According to Wirt, when area businesses, the observatory, and local schools team up for a project, everybody stands to gain something.

“For us, we needed to do something before too long,” Wirt says. “It really is a win-win, for us and the students.”

Story By

Angelo Jiordano

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