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Kunduck Moon, who retired to Frederick County a few years ago, has planted more than 30 acres of trees on his property in the Opequon area. He received a conservation award for the effort.

OPEQUON — Kunduck Moon retired to rural Frederick County in 2015 after decades of corporate banking in New York City. He found himself on 79 acres, much of it pasture.

For a recent retiree, livestock seemed like far too much trouble.

So he began to plant trees in the thousands. The multitude of tubes doting the property, which hold budding trees, indicate the pastureland will be home to a hardwood forest in the next few decades.

Moon planted 30 acres of trees, at least 8.5 acres along the Opequon Creek — species include sycamores, persimmons and paw paws — along with 22 acres converted into prime pine forest.

For his efforts in conservation, Moon was the recipient of the 2022 Lord Fairfax Soil and Conservation Award for excellence in forestry. A luncheon was held to recognize local leaders in conservation at the North Warren Fire Hall in Front Royal. The addition of the sprawling rows of tubs on the property marks new growth that will improve immediate habitat, and it will also improve water quality downstream — because Moon’s property is a frontage to a significant tributary, the Opeqoun Creek.

“Frankly, much of it is my own personal satisfaction — seeing all of these trees grow and seeing it become a forest. Pasture is nice, too, but there isn’t as much forest around anymore,” Moon said. “I wanted to be in a quieter place, closer to nature.”

Moon’s property off Cedar Grade Road is an ecologically significant one for the area. The environmental positives are in evidence: the Opequon Creek Watershed, an important artery in the Shenandoah Valley, begins about half a mile from his house. The roots from the newly planted trees will help prevent further sediment erosion of the creek bank, acting as a riparian buffer.

The Opequon Creek runs for 35 miles before it merges with other streams and eventuates in the Chesapeake Bay. A tributary stream of the Potomac River, its source is a spring on private property off of Cedar Creek Grade in the Back Creek District near the Opequon Historic District.

Besides the ecological benefits of the fresh scattering of trees, Moon in his retirement wants to be surrounded by forest in a scenic portion of Frederick County. Set in rows with precision, the tubes give the grounds the appearance of a cemetery from a distance, Moon joked.

But many of the trees, planted in the last two or three years, have begun to emerge from the protective scaffolding of the tubes.

“You have a forest eventually,” Moon said. “In five years, I hope it will be more interesting to look at.”

A graduate of Columbia School of Law, Moon hoped to retire to a more tranquil environment, first contemplating a move to northern California. But because of the drought issues that beleaguer the northwest, he began to look elsewhere. His brother suggested the Shenandoah Valley as a potential destination, for which Winchester is a regional center.

He is resolute about plans for his property.

“I want my property to be undeveloped, a refuge for animals and people,” Moon said.

That some of the seedlings thrive while others languish interests Moon. A lifelong gardener and present member of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners Association, Moon once gardened in New York City, but in much more cramped quarters.

Now deer often knock over the posts, so he makes his rounds correcting them.

Moon contacted the Virginia Department of Forestry so he could learn more about what species of trees would be best suited to plant. The Department also weighed in on preparation advice and planting plans.

“The pines we planted surprised me quite a bit. They are already about three-feet tall. Eventually, everything pops up,” Moon said.

Plans for introducing further flora on his property continue. Moon is now working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to plant 20 acres of flower meadow at the highest point on his property, near where a series of walnut trees, which grow well in this ecosystem, have been planted.

“That will be striking and picturesque then. Everything will be planted,” he said. “Before the settlers came, this area was all mixed trees and meadow.”

With heightened development pressure in Frederick County, less and less native forest remains. In 10 years, even more of the county will be developed, Moon suspects.

Besides the property’s red barn, which Moon uses as a woodworking shop, the site features the original farmhouse, built in 1740. Nearby is a pasture where Union soldiers brought their horses to graze during the Civil War. The avenue of trees, marked by the posts and otherwise by stakes, are done in rows so that mowing between them is easily accomplished.

In his woodworking, Moon is building a table for his daughter, a kitchen tray for his wife — fashioned ahead of the holidays from hardwood cut from the property.

“I hope these will last for generations, just like the trees,” Moon said.

— Contact Cormac Dodd at cdodd@winchesterstar.com

(3) comments

Unknown

What a wonderful story! So often the news I read is so depressing. This man is creating or reclaiming something that is beautiful and priceless. What a gift.

cuphaus

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Catherine Giovannoni

This sounds amazing. So glad to see that Mr. Moon is planting persimmons and paw paws! I wonder if he's interested in efforts to re-introduce native chestnut trees to the area?

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