Stadium Woods: Virginia Tech’s Old-growth Forest

Stadium Woods is 11.3 acres of rare, urban old-growth forest located behind Lane Stadium on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, VA. This site is the web presence of Friends of Stadium Woods, an all-volunteer, grassroots organization dedicated to protecting the woods from development. You can help—donate to the Stadium Woods Endowment Fund!

In 2011 and 2012 Stadium Woods was threatened by the proposed construction of an athletic indoor football practice training facility. Thanks to local activism that attracted national attention, Virginia Tech decided to build the facility elsewhere on campus, sparing the woods for now.

Although Virginia Tech has no plans to build in Stadium Woods in the near future, it’s not safe yet! No permanent protection has been established, and a maintenance plan is only in the development stage.

Friends of Stadium Woods’ primary mission is to ensure the woods’ permanent protection and preservation. Learn more about our goals, fundraising efforts, and organization.

About Friends of Stadium Woods

Executive Committee Members

  • Rebekah Paulson, Ex. Director
  • Dr. Jeff Kirwan, VT Professor Emeritus, Extension Specialist  & Co-Author Remarkable Trees of Virginia
  • Carl Absher, Certified Master Arborist and VT Alum
  • Dr. Carola Haas, VT Professor of Wildlife Ecology

Advisory Board Members

  • Susan Anderson
  • Tammy Belinsky
  • Doug Chancey
  • Kara Dodson
  • Erica Largen
  • Mark Lattanzi


Maintenance and Care

  • FOSW’s advocating for proper care of the woods includes no mowing in or on the edges of the woods to allow regeneration
  • No parking in or near the woods
  • No vehicular traffic in the woods
  • Removal of invasive plants
  • Tree care plan worthy of ancient, historical, and unique trees.
  • FOSW Recommendations to the VT Stadium Woods Stewardship Plan

Research and Education

  • Support students and professors with research grants to study old-growth forest
  • Conduct educational activities for children and 4-H groups
  • Preserve the woods as an outdoor laboratory for VT students and professors
  • Protection of the vitally important and essential ecosystem services of the woods which benefit the university, the town and the NRV


Stadium Woods Endowment Fund

  • Created December 2012
  • Managed and invested by the Community Foundation of the NRV
  • Our primary goal will be to raise funds to grow the endowment
  • Immediate goal: Grow the fund by $10,000 during 2015 to reach $25,000 target
  • Long term goal: Raise $1.5 million to endow a VA Tech Chair in Old-Growth Forestry

Grant Awards

  • Once there is a sizeable endowment we will award grants to professors and students for research in the woods
  • Summer internships focusing on an inventory and removal of invasive species
  • Youth educational experiences for local school children, 4-H groups and others


  • Use funds to aid in advocating for preservation of the woods
  • Legal fees related to preservation
  • Reimbursement for basic administrative expenses from designated expense account

How to Donate

  • Contributions via check should be made to the Community Foundation of the New River Valley with “Stadium Woods” in the notation line and sent to P.O. Box 6009, Christiansburg, VA 24068-6009
  • On-line donations: https://cfnrv.givebig.org/c/NRV/a/cfnrv-104

More about old-growth forests and Stadium Woods

What is an old-growth forest?

  • Natural forests that have developed over a long period of time without experiencing severe, stand-replacing disturbance—a fire, windstorm, logging or development
  • Large, dead standing trees (snags)
  • Woody Debris – large fallen trees & branches on the ground
  • Unevenly aged – Mix of young, old, and middle-aged trees
  • Canopy gaps visible between the tree crowns
  • Tipped-over trees and pits on ground

Cultural role of old-growth

  • Health benefits and psychological benefits
  • Most recognized, but least studied, attribute of older forests is their beauty
  • Many forest lovers drive or fly hundreds of miles each year to reach an old-growth forest

Ecological Role of Old-Growth Forests

  • The old-growth stage is especially important because of its unique structure
  • Habitat, food and nesting sites for wildlife includes insects, birds and animals
  • One of the few land uses where topsoil is created instead of destroyed
  • More carbon and nitrogen is retained in an old-growth forest than in forests of other age classes
  • For improving water quality and air quality there is nothing better than an old-growth forest

Old-growth forests are rare

  • Forests, like humans, can be classified as young, mature or old
  • Because of past disturbances old forests are the rarest
  • The amount of old-growth forest has declined every year since European settlement
  • Only a few tenths of a percent of the eastern forests are old-growth (.06)

Tree Inventory

  • The Trees in Stadium Woods were inventoried by Virginia Master Naturalists in the winter of 2011 They found 526 living trees over 12” in diameter in the 11.3 acre woods (15 acre canopy)
    57 trees over three feet in diameter Some of these are 300 to 400 years old
  • 24 species of trees grow in the Stadium Woods
  • White oak is the predominant species, both in number and stature There are 213 white oaks over 12 inches in diameter
  • Other dominant tree species
  • Black oak -119
  • Black cherry – 47
  • Sweet cherry – 34
  • Black locust – 31
  • Scarlet oak -16
  • Black walnut -15

 Watch this beautiful 6 minute documentary film by Chris Risch, VA Tech ’15 about Stadium Woods.  

Published Research on Virginia Tech’s old-growth forest

Stadium Woods: dendroecological reconstruction of an old-growth forest on a university campus

Author: Carolyn A. Copenheaver, John R. Seiler, John A.

Peterson, Andrew M. Evans, Jason L. McVay and Justin H. White

Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24060, USA and Department of Geography, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24060, USA


“Virginia Tech …. within the main campus property and located between the town of Blacksburg and the campus football stadium is an 4.6-ha forest patch that contains old-growth white oak (Quercus alba) trees known locally as Stadium Woods. The objective of this study was to reconstruct the disturbance history of this site from vegetation sampling and dendroecological analysis of the mature white oak trees….The oldest white oak core we sampled was 315-years old and the oldest trees (> 232 years)…The Stadium Woods represents a unique specimen of old-growth white oak forest set within the boundaries of a heavily populated area and reveals the importance of long-term tree-ring chronologies stored within urban forest patches.”

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