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Save the Trees

Sycamores cleared on Springvale serve as a reminder to preserve trees.

Mark Stires admits to feeling a little hypocritical, but he just could not help but feel outraged when he exited his house in late August and noticed that several large sycamore trees had been removed along Springvale Road to make way for a new development.

"I'm being a typical NIMBY [Not In My Back Yard] on this, because I live next door to the site, and I don't necessarily begrudge the developer because I'm a land developer engineer... but it just seems that there should have been some other way to design around those wonderful trees," said Stires.

According to Rosemary Ryan, a legislative aid in Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois' office, the trees were cleared to meet entrance requirements to Springvale Estates, an eight home project on 17 acres that is currently being developed by Commonwealth Homes, LLC.

"VDOT [Virginia Department of Transportation] requires a 350-foot line of sight for such projects, and I believe there is a problem in that area," said Ryan. "The tree clearing was required to provide frontage improvements and a deceleration lane into the new community."

Stires said that he finds the situation frustrating because there "isn't really anything that anybody can do about it."

"This is a classic example of how Springvale Road as we know it today is not going to be like that in the future," said Stires. "Unless Springvale becomes a scenic byway like Georgetown Pike, there is probably no way to protect it, and it's just really disappointing to see that occur."

A PICTURE of the cleared trees was also shown at the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) meeting that took place earlier this month. At the meeting, residents discussed the importance of establishing a clear future vision for Great Falls — one that would hopefully establish guidelines about how to preserve the semi-rural character of the community.

"We are losing habitat every time we have a new development," said Robin Rentsch, co-chair of the Great Falls Citizens Association Environment, Parks and Recreation committee.

Like Stires, Rentsch also lives near the incoming Springvale Estates development, and was devastated to see the destruction of the large sycamores. Preservation of established trees is a top priority of the Great Falls Citizens Association, and on Sept. 12, the GFCA launched its 2006-2007 "Heritage Tree Census" to encourage citizens to be aware of the trees in their community.

"We do this because obviously one of the things that distinguishes Great Falls from other communities is that there are trees all over the place," said Bill Canis, co-leader of the Heritage Tree Census project. "There are certain things that you'll never be able to get back, and that's certainly true of the big trees around here."

The census will run from September 2006 to May 2007, and the Great Falls Citizens Association is asking residents to locate and register "heritage" trees in the area. A heritage tree is defined as "a large tree that has seen a lot of history." The GFCA is seeking 22 species in particular, and these can be found on their Web site at www.gfcitizens.com.

"On Great Falls Day, we'll announce where the largest trees are," said Canis. "Our hope is that the children of Great Falls will begin to realize not only what some of our natural heritage is, but they'll also learn about trees in the process."