Tree Propagation

Since the 1970s, ArlingtonCounty in Virginia has lost a significant amount of its tree canopy with an estimated 3,000-plus acres being converted from “heavy” tree cover (over 50-percent canopy) to “low” tree cover (less than 20-percent canopy). What’s more, the county is landlocked; it’s one of the most densely populated counties in the nation with many well-established communities dating back to the 1800s. Feel the pain? What’s a tree lover to do?

“Now’s the time to be creative,” said Steve Temmermand, division chief for Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources. “There is no one solution … but a combination that includes planting, promoting, lobbying and now more than ever, good tree maintenance.”

The loss of Arlington’s mature tree canopy is a persistent environmental issue as it continues to lose trees to natural events and on private land as a result of infill, new construction and renovations to existing dwellings. Because many of the trees lost are large, mature trees, new plantings do not offset these losses, and many areas of Arlington are experiencing a changing landscape.

Plant A Tree–An Obvious Solution

The county currently has about 18,500 street trees. The Department of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources plants more than 1,200 trees a year on county land in parks, along sidewalks, on public-school property and in street medians. Twenty-five hundred possible sites for more street trees have been identified, and a few more trees can be planted in parks and in other public spaces. There is also a process for the community to recommend public spaces for more trees.

“With a tree inventory, an Urban Forest Master Plan and funding, our planting program on public spaces is robust, but finite,” says Jamie Bartalon, Arlington’s landscape and forestry supervisor.

Since most of the land mass in the county is privately owned, the county gives away more than 1,350 trees a year to private-property owners. While this seems like a no-brainer, it actually takes a fair amount of coordination and education. You can’t just say, “Got free trees, come get them.” You need to conserve staff time as much as the environment, and make sure trees are going to a location where they have a good chance of flourishing.

“We have a concentrated push in the spring and the fall, good tree-planting times,” said Patrick Wegeng, environmental landscape supervisor. The trick is to coordinate with an existing event, so as to piggyback off the marketing, and to bring in neighborhood associations to help in the coordination and manual labor. In the spring, for example, ArlingtonCounty coordinates a tree giveaway on Neighborhood Day. County staff delivers tree ”whips” (approximately three to five feet in height and potted in one- or two-gallon plastic containers) to single locations designated by each neighborhood or community group representative. Each representative is responsible for further distribution to individual homeowners and residents. Each time, the county offers a major canopy tree (this year a yellow poplar), and a smaller, understory, flowering or ornamental tree (the Allegheny serviceberry this year).

The county also coordinates with local nonprofits on volunteer tree-planting events. Generally netting 200 to 250 trees, these are great opportunities because not only do local nonprofits help staff, promote and direct the programs, but additional nonprofits, such as scout organizations, church groups and community/civic associations do the plantings, getting the entire community involved and claiming ownership.

Money Matters

However, county money can go only so far. Two programs are helping to obtain private funding for tree planting. The Commemorative Tree Program encourages residents to purchase a tree (that the county plants and maintains) to honor a person or event. And since development is a major reason for reduced tree numbers, a Tree Canopy Fund was recently approved by the county board. Developers will contribute $2,400 per tree when they cannot meet tree-planting requirements on their property due to site constraints.

Page 1 of 3 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Mosaic Park Public Meeting
  2. To Tree Or Not To Tree?
  3. Planting For The Future
  4. A Heroic Plan
  5. A Tree Top Ten List
  • Columns
  • Departments