We met on a recent morning for a walk in the woods.
“This has always been one of my favorite places,” said McChesney “Ches” Goodall III as we set off.
Goodall knows a good forest when he sees one: He’s a forester by training and co-founder of Virginia Forestry and Wildlife Group, a natural resource consulting firm.
He and his son began exploring these woods — behind the Carillon and Dogwood Dell amphitheater in Byrd Park — years ago.
“It was amazing,” he recalled. “There were hardly any trails. It was this kind of forgotten block of mature woods that no one seemed to visit … an old-growth forest with a beautiful creek. A peaceful place in the middle of the city.”
There was also something else about this part of the park, officially known as Dogwood Dell, though Goodall likes to refer to it as Carillon Woods: It was suffocatingly overgrown with ivy, kudzu and all sorts of other invasive species. The trees, some dating to the 1800s and many covered with vines reaching up into their tops, were choking to death.