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Cooper Gardens to Honor McLean 'Tree Hugger'

<sh>Site to be dedicated to Dick Poole, chairman of McLean Trees Committee

Newly landscaped gardens at Cooper Middle School, where a recycling bin collects newsprint to be sold, recycled, and returned to McLean in the form of living trees, will be dedicated to Dick Poole, chairman of the McLean Trees Committee, in a brief ceremony at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26.

Back to School night for parents of eighth-graders will follow the ceremony at 7 p.m.

The source of funding for the gardens, benches, trees and shrubs in front of the school was a $10,000 challange grant from the McLean Citizens Foundation (MCF) that was matched by the Cooper PTA, said publicity chair Kalpana Rumburg.

“The funding allowed the school to improve the aesthetic value of the building and help maintain a safe environment for the students,” she said.

“Over the past 10 years the school population has grown so much that there is no longer enough room on the sidewalks for the students to stand while they wait for their buses,” she said.

Creating the landscaped area also created places for students to gather in front of the school.

THE COOPER PTA chose to honor Poole because of his “significant contributions to the beautification of McLean,” she said. Poole was honored as Citizen of the Year by the McLean Citizens Association in 1993.

Merrily Pierce, MCA president in 1995-97, first organized the Citizen of the Year banquet that year, with Poole as the first and sole honoree.

The event was held in a banquet room at Evans Farm Inn that drew an overflow crowd. “They had to add extra tables,” Pierce said.

McLean Trees, an independent committee that exists under the umbrella of the MCA, sells newsprint for recycling and spends the revenue on trees and shrubs to be planted in McLean.

Wherever the group has turned its attention, greenery has sprouted: including medians of roads all around McLean, Lewinsville Park and McLean Central Park, and a small garden on Chain Bridge Road directly across from Langley Shopping Center.

Poole has nursed many seedlings through the transition from planting until they are robust and strong.

Ed Mainland, a former resident of McLean now living in San Francisco, originated McLean Trees with John Adams, another member of the MCA’s board of directors, in the early 1970s, when public attention was focused on recycling and environmental quality.

Adams said the two were curious “to see if we could turn newspapers into trees.”

LATER, THE MCA took McLean Trees under its organizational umbrella, although the group functions independently as a special committee. It retains a funding mechanism that allows collection, sale, and expenditure of money from recycling.

“We do not depend on the MCA for funds or instructions,” Poole said.

“We earn our money the hard way.” McLean Trees earned about $6,600 last year.

Although the recycling “bin” at Cooper receives paper all the time, a student is hired to assist citizens who bring their paper products for recycling on Saturday mornings. As chairman of McLean Trees, Poole helps with that effort on most Saturdays.

Money from the sale of recycled newsprint pays for the purchase of small trees and shrubs to be planted in McLean.

Lately, Poole has worried that the diminshed sales of “parkout” permits at the Cooper location will hurt McLean Trees.

“The county is siphoning off parkout users by suddenly starting picking up trash,” he said.

People who deliver their trash to the parkout location at Cooper also contribute newsprint to McLean Trees, rather than giving it to a private company, or to Fairfax County Solid Waste and Recycling.

“You can put your paper out for the county or a private hauler to sell. [But] if you take it to Cooper, it is recycled for trees for McLean,” said Pierce.