McLean Citizens Association Hosts Meeting on Protecting Community’s Tree Cover
0
Votes

McLean Citizens Association Hosts Meeting on Protecting Community’s Tree Cover

A mature holly tree was the only tree saved in the interior of this lot on Balls Hill Road in McLean, but the builder complied with county regulations by preserving the trees on the edges of the lot.

A mature holly tree was the only tree saved in the interior of this lot on Balls Hill Road in McLean, but the builder complied with county regulations by preserving the trees on the edges of the lot. Photo contributed

Resources for Your Trees

*The McLean Trees Foundation helps plant trees on public and private property. See the website to complete an application. A $50 fee pays for the program costs. McLean Trees Foundation volunteers will visit the homeowner’s property to discuss the program, review their property, and recommend tree species and planting locations. The foundation will also deliver a tree with a trunk diameter of about one inch, assist homeowners in properly planting the tree and will guide them on watering and maintaining the tree. www.mcleantreesfoundation.org

*Fairfax Tree Stewards

The Virginia Urban Forest Council sponsors this statewide program. Fairfax Tree Stewards are a core of volunteers working to improve and protect Fairfax County's tree canopy. Training classes cover basic tree biology and physiology, tree identification, planting, maintenance and more. www.ffxtreestewards.org

*Fairfax County Tree Commission promotes tree preservation and conservation within the county, helps implement the Tree Action Plan, selects celebrated trees of Fairfax County, solicits and selects nominees for Friends of Trees Awards, solicits and selects nominees for tree preservation and planting awards and organizes tree forums to educate citizens about urban forests. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/trees/treecommission

*Fairfax County Master Gardeners offer free advice on caring for plants, vegetables and lawns and can provide gardening fact sheets and soil test kits to guide homeowners to a successful home landscape. Master Gardeners are available to speak at workshops. www.fairfaxmga.org

Help Desk: 703-324-8556

*Virginia Cooperative Extension

www.ext.vt.edu

*Great Falls Citizens Association

www.gfca.org

*McLean Citizens Association

www.mcleancitizens.org

*Urban Forest Management Division

703-324-1770

*Department of Planning and Zoning

"What's Going on in My Neighborhood"

www.fairfaxcounty.gov/faqs/myneighborhood.htm

*Land Development System

Site plans, grading plans, waivers and zoning records.

http://ldsnet.fairfaxcounty.gov/ldsnet/

Supervisor John Foust remembers learning that 119 trees would be removed for his planned office in McLean. It wasn't a decision without controversy, Foust said, when he told authorities to halt those plans.

"Trees are very important to and for us," said Foust. "People can make a difference in the preservation of trees."

However, current legislation doesn't have the "teeth we need it to," said Foust at a meeting hosted by the McLean Citizens Association on March 24 called "Protecting Neighborhood Tree Cover."

"I know how heartbreaking it can be to see your neighbor put his house on the market and a developer buys it and knocks down [most] of the trees," said Robert Vickers, Dranesville Representative to the Fairfax County Tree Commission.

In fact, county representatives told the 75 people in the audience at the McLean Community Center that developers and homeowners need to preserve at least 30 percent of the tree canopy when remodeling or taking down a house.

LAST WEEK, residents learned that the builder had complied with the law on a site in McLean at Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive that looked barren to them after tree clearing, renewing concerns that the current regulations don’t provide enough protection for the tree canopy.

"It is a fairly weak statute and there is minimal protection for trees in Fairfax County, or for that matter, Virginia," said Bill Canis, vice president of Great Falls Citizens Association, who has worked on a donor program in Great Falls to plant new white oak trees, a native tree throughout Great Falls. "I would say Fairfax and Virginia do not have a strong enough statute for protecting our trees."

"It may not be as strong as everyone would like it but it is the strongest in the state," said Keith Klein, director of the Urban Forest Management Division. "It does give us tools to use."

Klein and Craig Herwig, of the Forest Conservation Branch of the office, told people to get involved.

"We need your help. You can get involved in this. You have a voice in what is being developed," said Herwig. Klein steered residents to a Department of Planning and Zoning website to learn about proposed development in Fairfax neighborhoods.

Vickers said the best time for neighbors to get involved is in the re-zoning process. "What's our best opportunity to preserve trees? Right in the rezoning process," said Vickers.

Education also makes a difference, and the Tree Commission has established rewards and incentives for developers who attempt to maintain tree cover. "The more awareness we create, the more influence we have," said Vickers.

"If you call us, and get our attention, we have probably been there, or we will be going to see it," said Herwig.

"While we can't preserve all the mature trees, we can plant more trees," said Joyce Harris, of the McLean Trees Foundation. "Changing ordinances takes a lot of time and effort. I think it is very important while all this is going on that we continued to plant trees. That's something we can do that is positive and can increase our tree canopy."

"Trees help define our sense of place and contribute to our community’s economy, environment, and way of life. A healthy tree population projects a positive community image and improves the quality of life," according to Harris and the McLean Trees Foundation website.

"How do we get the rules in place that protect the trees?" said environmental advocate Stella Koch. "That's the real question, what are the limits of protection for trees and how do we have to change that."

MCLEAN TREES FOUNDATION and McLean Community Foundation have partnered to help homeowners select and plant and care for new trees in their front yard. See www.mcleantreesfoundation.org.

The McLean Trees Foundation helps plant trees on public and private property. A new program offered by the foundation and by McLean Community Foundation helps homeowners get involved in selecting, planting and caring for trees on their own property.

This program will also advance McLean Trees Foundation's goal of restoring and diversifying McLean's tree canopy.

“To fully enhance the tree canopy in Fairfax County, tree planting must occur on privately-owned residential lots, as county-owned and commonly-owned open spaces are limited,” said Keith Cline, Director of the Fairfax County Urban Forest Management Division. “Residential lots have the most space for planting new trees in Fairfax County, and trees are more likely to thrive with a homeowner caring for them.”

See the website to complete an application. A $50 fee pays for the program costs. McLean Trees Foundation volunteers will visit the homeowner’s property to discuss the program, review their property, and recommend tree species and planting locations. MTF will also deliver a tree with a trunk diameter of about one inch, assist homeowners in properly planting the tree and will guide them on watering and maintaining the tree.

A follow-up visit to the property will be carried out by an MTF volunteer one to six months after the planting.

Applications are accepted year round and planting occurs in the spring or fall. MTF offers a selection of native one-inch caliper (diameter) understory and canopy trees including Oaks, Black Gum, Elm, American Holly, Bald Cypress, Eastern Red Cedar, Sweet Gum, Fringe Tree, Redbud, American Hornbeam, Sweetbay Magnolia, and Serviceberry.

McLean Trees Foundation: The Roots

McLean Citizens Association has fought for the preservation of trees for more than 50 years, including in 1964 when the association urged the school board to save an elm tree in front of the proposed Langley High School.

"A tree has the best chance of survival when someone is taking care of it, when someone is attached," said Joyce Harris, of the McLean Trees Foundation. Harris spoke to a group of 75 people who came for a presentation organized by the McLean Citizens Association called "Protecting Neighborhood Tree Cover."

Merrily Pierce and Paul Kohlenberger, authors of "The Voice of McLean: 100 Years of the McLean Citizens Association," traced roots of the McLean Trees Foundation to the 1960s.

"Disturbed by extent of development and removal of large trees in the business district and beyond, McLean Citizens Association tries to beautify business district with a tree-planting project in 1960 with boy and girl scouts and garden clubs," they wrote.

The McLean Citizens Association's 1969 newspaper recycling program with bins at Cooper Intermediate School and Safeway evolved into the McLean Trees Committee in 1972.

Proceeds were used to purchase, plant and maintain more than 1,000 trees in McLean's downtown and public places.

It operated as a semi-autonomous working committee of the McLean Citizens Association and became the McLean Trees Foundation in 2004.

"I am extremely grateful to those who came before us who worked so hard to plant and preserve trees more than 50 years ago. We benefit from their efforts. We have a responsibility to continue to care of our trees. What we do today will impact the next generation," said Harris, now chairman of the McLean Trees Foundation.

The mission is to help maintain, restore and enhance McLean's urban forest on public and private property.

"While we can't preserve all the mature trees, we can plant new trees," said Harris. "People care about trees and they are concerned about tree protection and they are concerned to maintain and increase the tree canopy."

McLean Trees Foundation has planted thousands of trees and shrubs in parks, school grounds, government sites, commercial corridors, residential areas, traffic islands and along McLean sidewalks.

Harris has outlines of the Tree Planting Program that the citizens association established in 1964 and started planning in 1963.

Robert Andrews, president of MCA in 1964 before becoming a Virginia delegate, called the McLean program "a united community effort involving all political, organizational, geographic and social groups -- an opportunity to bring businessman and resident together," which involved the MCA, the Highway Department, Fairfax County Planning Staff, County Park Authority, McLean Business and Professional Association, Girl Scouts, McLean Garden Club, Boy Scouts, McLean Kiwanis Club, School PTA's, Churches, Langley School, and Boys Club of America and others. Andrews died in 2013.

"Trees help define our sense of place and contribute to our community’s economy, environment, and way of life. A healthy tree population projects a positive community image and improves the quality of life," according to Harris.