Great Falls' Legacy White Oak Project

Great Falls' Legacy White Oak Project

Great Falls seeks to restore a thinning legacy.

Jack Clark puts the finishing touches on planting a White Oak in front of the Great Falls Library last year.

Jack Clark puts the finishing touches on planting a White Oak in front of the Great Falls Library last year. Photo Contributed

Brooks Farm

The Great Falls Citizens Association's Land Use and Zoning Committee and the Environment, Parks and Trails meeting will co-host a session to look at environmental issues at Brooks Farm.

The meeting is scheduled for April 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Great Falls Library. Brooks Farm is proposed to be rezoned with cluster development.

The program will feature Fairfax County officials from the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, Health Department and Dept. of Planning & Zoning speaking about storm water management, wells and septic, environmental quality corridors and Resource Protection Areas (RPAs), all of which come into play in the Brooks Farm rezoning application. Speakers will address both broad county environmental policies and specific considerations concerning the Brooks Farm application.

Resources for Your Trees

*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. http://www.ffxtrees…">www.ffxtreestewards…

*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. http://www.fairfaxc…">www.fairfaxcounty.g…

*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. http://www.fairfaxm…">

Help Desk: 703-324-8556

Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) has dug into its new goal of planting 15 more white oaks this spring around the library, Colvin Run Mill, Riverbend Park, Nike Park, Turner Farm, Grange and Lockmead Park.

"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, during the first year of the Legacy White Oak Project, GFCA raised enough money to plant 17 white oaks around Great Falls, including the library, parks, and Smith Chapel United Methodist Church.

"Oaks in particular are very valuable. They are huge and beautiful and fascinating," said Candace Campbell, who donated a tree to be planted at Colvin Run Mill last year.

"It's probably the most majestic tree we have. We have some people in Great Falls dedicated to the issue," said Wes Callender, who donated to the program and to planting of white oaks last year. "I wanted to help as a donor because it is an opportunity to leave a bit of a legacy behind us with the white oak. This is a legacy tree that could be around for the next 200 years."

THE 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.

"I see it as a critical thing in preserving our history, preserving the tree canopy, keeping the area attractive area for people and the environment," said Bob Lundegard, another donor to the program.

But people don't often plant them when redeveloping, because homeowners and developers may choose quicker growing, flowering trees.

"The white oak was beginning to disappear," said Callender. "They aren't being replaced and people are putting in trees that grow quickly at the edge of the canopy."

In 2014, the Great Falls Citizens Association, in conjunction with Fairfax County, initiated a program to ensure that future generations know the beauty of these giant trees.

"I feel like Great Falls is losing so much of its legacy especially along Georgetown Pike," Campbell said. "I don't want Georgetown Pike to look like Rockville Pike."

Sites at the Grange will be available in spring 2015.

Great Falls Citizens Association and county staff have carefully chosen planting sites so they are not under power lines and are in open spaces where the trees can mature and reach their full size and grandeur.

"The white oak tree attracts hundreds of species of insects and birds," Canis said.

When farmers cleared the land, they often left white oaks in their farmyards and along roadways to mature into very large and elegant shade trees, said Canis, of the Great Falls Citizens Association.

"Oaks in particular are very valuable," said Campbell.

Large white oaks are often venerated: in Maryland the Wye Oak was declared the largest white oak in the country, and a state park established around it. In the last ten years, Great Falls has lost nearly all of the large white oaks that once populated the village area. These two-hundred-year-old sentinels marked the community’s rural past as much as historic homes and byways, said Canis. "They are a legacy from our rural past," he said.

"If we don't start planting trees to replace them, it's going to get even uglier," said Campbell.

THE COST or the tree, the planting, mulching, taking and watering by local landscaping company SGB is $435; the county uses a different landscaper on county parkland.

Lundegard even purchased one to plant in his yard last year. "We look at them every day. They are forming buds right now," he said.

For more information, contact GFCA Vice President Bill Canis at