Bless Brittany’s Tree in Great Falls

Bless Brittany’s Tree in Great Falls

GFCA Legacy White Oak Tree planting project widens its canopy of interest.

Brittany Geserick-Beschen’s love for white oaks has deep roots.

She calls a mature multi-century oak in her Great Falls front yard, “The Big Guy.” She set up a table and chair where she relaxes and daydreams by its side. She talks to her tree, sings to it, blesses it.

“I think of all the history when I sit under it. I think about our first president who was young when the tree was young. It survived the Civil War,” said Geserick-Beschen, 27, of Great Falls.

“I like trees, oh gosh, I wish you could see it,” she said.

“She is a history buff, particularly American History and sometimes she wonders about the historical events her tree has lived through,” said her mother Beverly Geserick. “We are not sure but think the tree is over 200 years old. Someone once said 300 years.”

When she and her husband constructed their house in 1984, “the contractor wanted to cut down the tree while clearing for building,” said Geserick. “I wanted to keep it and to work the driveway around it.”

The driveway was cut and they built a retaining wall. Although some white oaks from the property have died over the years, “The Big Guy” is still “going strong,” she said.

“This tree has become very special to our daughter,” she said. “It is her pet tree.”

“It’s just majestic, it’s just such a grand tree,” she said.

“The large white oaks are reaching maturity and dying and aren’t being replenished,” said Geserick, who has noticed diminishing amounts of acorns in recent years.

“This year we have plenty and I have planted them on our lot,” she said. “The deer love to eat the new saplings and that is one reason why these trees are not being replenished.”

BILL CANIS of the Great Falls Citizens Association has spearheaded an effort to plant white oaks in the center of Great Falls.

"The white oaks are native to where we live. When you drive around Great Falls and McLean and you see a really huge tree, there is a 90 percent chance what you are seeing is a white oak," said Bill Canis, vice president of Great Falls Citizens Association. "They are majestic giant trees. They live to be 200 to 250 years old."

Last year, 16 trees were donated to be planted in various spots in Great Falls. This spring, six were planted and this fall, three more by the Old Schoolhouse

“We wanted to be a part of that especially given the tree loss in the center of town,” said Geserick.

GFCA plans to continue the white oak program in 2016; interested residents should watch the GFCA details or contact GFCA Vice President Bill Canis at

Local residents have been buying white oaks through the program and planting them in their own yards.

BRITTANY’S TREE was planted by the Old Schoolhouse around the same time the historic oak at the intersection was torn down by VDOT.

Brittany and her mother picked the precise spot her new tree would be planted.

When Brittany watched her new tree, “The Scraggly Guy,” makes its new home, she sung Edelweiss to it.

“Bloom and grow forever,” she sang.

“I want it to live a long time. For me, it’s a song with a blessing and encouragement,” said Geserick-Beschen.

She asks people to pray for her tree, which is near two others planted by the Old Schoolhouse.

“I love the idea that they will be around a long time after me,” her mother said.

A BIG SNOW during the winter of 2009-2010 broke a large limb, “larger than many trees,” from the oak in the Geserick’s front yard.

Geserick’s husband Darrell Beschen cut the tree into logs and then rough split them and let them dry for two years.

“I had two crosses made by Kenny Hott of Crossmember Crosses and a small framed mirror, pen, and hair comb by Bill Hardy of Turnstyles,” said Geserick.

Brittany has worn the comb every day since May of 2012.

She understands that VDOT felt it needed to cut down the tree at the intersection but wishes the wood could have been used for something in Great Falls.

And perhaps for the future if other trees need to come down.

SOME IN GREAT FALLS believe more effort could have been made to save the oak at the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Walker Road.

GFCA hired an arborist from North Carolina who specializes in management of historic trees, often those by roadways.

“This last oak fell not to science or reason, but misinformation and fear,” said Guy Meilleur, who inspected the tree.

“We climbed into the canopy, and tomographed the trunks. Applying European research specific to the fungus involved, we specified standard pruning. VDOT obtained reports that were based on incomplete inspections, engineering formulas, and many assumptions, recommended removal,” said Guy Meilleur.

White Oak Project

During the first year of the Legacy White Oak Project, GFCA raised enough money to plant 17 white oaks around Great Falls, including at the library, at Colvin MIll and Smith Chapel United Methodist Church, Riverbend Park, Nike Park, Turner Farm, Grange, Old Schoolhouse and Lockmead Park.

This past year, donors helped GFCA plant six trees in the spring and three in the fall, including three on the campus by the Old School House.

Local residents have been buying white oaks through the program and planting them in their own yards.

The native white oak is considered the king of east coast trees because of its potential to grow into a very large, strong tree, according to Canis. "They are a legacy from our rural past," he said.

GFCA plans to continue the white oak program in 2016; interested residents should watch the GFCA website--"> details or contact GFCA Vice President Bill Canis at