The Great Falls Garden Club and the Celebrate Great Falls Foundation are working to beautify the streetscape at the Village Center at Walker Road.
The organizations will be planting 14 trees along both sides of Walker Road, from Georgetown Pike to the edge of the commercial district.
“Our town center has lost a lot of trees, so that’s really changing the appearance of town,” said Candace Campbell, a garden club member and past president.
One of the massive oak trees located near the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Walker Road fell in the summer of 2012, killing Albert Carl Roeth III while he was driving. The tree was more than 100 years old and was showing signs of aging.
Three other oak trees along the roadway were removed following the incident as a precaution, according to Campbell.
Another oak tree did not survive the pedestrian safety and traffic flow improvements to the roadway that the Virginia Department of Transportation constructed.
The process of bringing trees back to the area has been more complicated than the garden club would have ever guessed.
“It’s taken us like 15 or 16 months to get all of our ducks in order,” Campbell said. “There’s a lot of balls in the air. It’s really amazing. You would think, ‘Ah, so simple. Just plant some trees down Walker Road.’ But, it’s not simple.”
THE GARDEN CLUB met with Fairfax County and Dranesville District arborists to determine which trees would fare well in the area.
“They knew information about bugs and diseases so that we didn’t pick trees that would succumb to something that we didn’t know about five years from now,” she said.
The trees the group selected to plant are sourwood, American plum, fringe, downy serviceberry and American hornbeam — which are all native to the area.
“There’s been a big push to use native trees, shrubs and flowers because it’s better for wildlife and the environment,” Campbell said. “The non-native stuff is beautiful, but it’s not home or food for anybody. If you’re going to plant a tree, you might as well plant a native.”
The garden club also made sure they received a permit and approval from VDOT, since it owns the land. However, plans may have to change as they work around utilities, which they forgot to consider.
The group arranged to plant hornbeams, which the United States Department of Agriculture said can grow up to 30 feet tall, near above-ground power lines.
“Now we’re investigating smaller trees that would still fit all the other criteria and would prevent Dominion from coming through and butchering them in five years when they’re mature,” she said.
THE FINAL HURDLE is funding the streetscape project to the amount of $20,000.
About $6,000 will buy and plant the trees; another $6,000 will be spent on maintenance for the trees’ first year; and more will be used as a contingency in case trees need to be replaced or watering is needed next summer, according to Campbell.
“We need to water them to make sure they get established and so they don’t just bake in July and August and die,” she said.
The group hopes to start planting in April and is encouraging community members to pitch in to support their work.
Information about donating can be found online at www.celebrategreatfalls.org/great-falls-streetscape.