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Funding for new tree plantings approved by Vienna Town Council

Entrance to the East Creek Trail in Vienna (via Google Maps)

The Town of Vienna will take a critical step this coming Arbor Day toward replenishing its tree canopy, thanks to the late councilmember Maud Robinson.

During its March 4 meeting, the current Vienna Town Council gave staff the go-ahead to spend $50,000 from the Robinson Trust on a planting project that will add 145 trees along local streets and the East Creek Trail.

Established by Robinson’s estate after her death in 2019, the over $8 million trust was mostly intended to support new sidewalks, but a portion was set aside for town beautification projects, specifically tree plantings.

“This is an important contribution to the restoration of our canopy, which probably all of us here desire,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said before the vote. “…We have to thank Maud for leaving the money specifically for this purpose, so let’s spend it.”

The allocated funds will cover the planting of 70 trees along six streets and 75 trees along East Creek Trail, which is located at the intersection of Ayr Hill Avenue NE and East Street NE.

The streets — Brentwood Court NW, Blair Court NW, Witness Court NW, Counsellor Drive NW, Carters Glen SW and Moorefield Road SW — were chosen based on a town-wide tree inventory completed last year, according to Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman.

Conducted by the urban forestry consultant PlanIT Geo, the final inventory identified over 10,000 trees in Vienna, including around 4,200 that were in need of maintenance, stump grinding, pest or disease control, or removal. The report also pointed out more than 1,200 potential planting locations for street trees.

Herman told the town council that the new trees funded by this project will be a mix of native and non-native species, since native species don’t always thrive in the narrow strip of land between sidewalk and road that’s available for street trees.

“Street trees grow in a variety of harsh conditions,” she said. “There are a number of considerations that go into the selection of street trees in Vienna, to include poor soil, lack of moisture, road de-icing salts, pollution, urination by dogs, overhead utility avoidance, selection for a root system that’s compatible with nearby sidewalks, curb-and-gutter, lawn mowers and the opening and closing of doors.”

The plantings are expected to begin this spring and finish in November, depending on the weather.

Volunteers will be enlisted for the planting effort along East Creek Trail as part of the town’s Arbor Day festivities. An event is being organized for the morning of April 27, a day after the official Arbor Day Celebration at the same site on April 26.

Residents slated to get street trees in front of their homes will be notified in advance of the plantings, Herman said.

Bolstering the town’s tree canopy has become a priority of the Vienna Town Council since an assessment released in October 2022 found that it had lost approximately 163 acres — or 13% — of its tree cover since 2011.

A zoning code amendment that would establish new standards for preserving and adding trees has been in the works since May 2023, but a decision on whether to adopt it has been repeatedly deferred, partly due to a debate over how the ordinance should be organized and partly in anticipation of new state legislation.

A bill championed by state Sen. Saddam Salim would’ve allowed the town to set 10-year tree canopy requirements for developers, instead of the 20-year time frame currently expected. The legislation appeared on track for approval, passing the State Senate on a 28-12 vote, but it was defeated 52-48 in the House of Delegates on Feb. 28, falling short of the 67 “yes” votes needed to pass.

In the wake of the bill’s failure, the town council held a conference session on the proposed tree ordinance on March 4, but it remains unclear when the measure might get an official vote.

Image via Google Maps

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