Email to the County Board
October 8, 2018
Dear Chair Cristol and members of the Arlington County Board:
I am an Arlington County resident and former long-time county consultant, chiefly as a botanical consultant who assisted with the development of the county’s Natural Resource Management Plan, its in-the-works revision, and also as an assistant with the county’s Champion and Notable Tree Program. You can blame the State/Arlington County Champion status of the Dawn Redwood that was recently destroyed on me, as I “discovered” it years ago and helped measure and score it.
As a resident, but also as one who has probably surveyed every bit of whatever of the wild remains in Arlington, I am appalled at the throwaway culture mentality that has taken root in Arlington, and one that is increasing exponentially. Arlington, probably more than any other D.C. region jurisdiction, has become a war zone of needless but rampant clearing of many of its surviving and healthy old-age, remnant forest trees. The majority of these trees are being lost through poorly planned infill projects, where every living thing is razed on the site and ugly box McMansions replace it (see attached “Arlington County’s value of old-age native trees”).
A quick drive past the awful sterile lots that now occupy former treed properties at 5500, 5601, 5618, and 5630 Williamsburg Blvd. and 3509 and 3512 N Pocomoke Street exemplify this crisis well, though there are countless other examples of this same destruction throughout the county.
Once these remnant forest trees are gone, so are large swaths of native biodiversity that rely on the mature upland oaks and hickories (oaks, and hickories to a lesser extent, are the dominant canopy trees of Arlington County). Once these oaks and hickories are gone, they’re gone for good. They are irreplaceable. Check your tree planting lists and see how many Southern Red Oak, Black Oak, Chestnut Oak, White Oak, Pignut Hickory, and Mockernut Hickory trees were planted in any given year. Little to none. No, what is in their place are inappropriate species that are not in any way in-kind replacements. Plant species that do not sustain native wildlife because they have not co-evolved with our native wildlife. These things indeed matter – hugely, if one cares about the quality of world we are to leave to future generations.
And added to these losses are the mystifying removal of similar old-age canopy trees on county land, such as the removal of 111 mature trees — some of which are located on the steep grade and within the RPA — next to Lubber Run, as part of the Lubber Run Community Center replacement project. Does Arlington have the world’s most clueless and detached planners? The county can’t give lip service to tree canopy preservation while at the same time removing hundreds of mature, remnant forest trees on its lands.
Currently, there are two properties with old-age, remnant forest trees of the old “Reserve Hill” at the eastern end of N. Florida Street one block north of Yorktown High School that are slated for razing. The residence at 3010 N. Florida Street in particular has an old-age “patriarch” Southern Red Oak in its front yard, as well as other old Southern Red Oak trees and a stand of old, large Black Gum trees at the back corner of the property (see attached, as well as the healthy canopy photo of weeks ago – in the likely event the developer claims the trees had to come down because they were “found” to be diseased and in decline – NOT!). The giant Southern Red Oak tree at 3010 N. Florida Street in the attached photo was also nominated years ago as an Arlington Notable Tree by Arlington Champion Tree specialist John Wingard.
Do you know – or could you please look into – whether county staff have negotiated any tree protections for these trees on the two adjoining properties at 3010 N. Florida Street? My guess is no, they haven’t – business as the new usual.
It would be derelict of the county if it hadn’t tried to negotiate its wishes for tree preservation on these sites, beginning with the giant Southern Red Oak, and would further confirm the deep public perception that Arlington County simply does not care about negotiating the preservation of old, native, remnant forest trees on infill development lots. In contrast, the public sees this very much as a duty/deliverable of county planners and arborists – as well as the county board, county manager, and other staff. Sure, sometimes attempts will be fruitless, but sometimes victories for effective preservation will be achieved.
Thank you for you consideration of this matter.