June 2013 - Lee Hwy Tree Tour (photos and text by Maureen Ross)
On June 6th, we took County on an inspection of Lee Hwy trees. We were accompanied by Jamie Bartalon, County Landscape and Forestry Supervisor, and Patrick Wegeng, Environmental Landscape Supervisor. It was clear that the trees along Lee are not in the shape they should be. To see what our trees could look like, go up to Lee Hwy in Falls Church, across from the State Theatre. Those trees were planted the same time ours were initially, after the brick pavers were put in.
The difference between the Falls Church trees and ours are the following:
Planted in good soil; in larger tree aisles; the aisles set back about 18 inches from the curb, and surrounded by raised bricks (a few inches); the mulch set flat rather than in mounds around the tree stumps; and trees watered for years until very mature with deep roots. That seems to be the formula for success and we urge County to copy it.
Our trees have a surprising number of deep bark injuries assumably from trucks given the height of the injuries. In fact a truck at one point apparently parked ON the Dunkin Donuts sidewalk and rammed one of the trees there. They damage tends to coincide with construction. We therefore ask that County inspect sites at the end of each construction day, to include the trees, so we can have the offending company replace the damaged tree immediately rather than the cost coming back to county a year later.
The Bromptons tree aisles already show damage around the brick edging, and especially on the Pollard St side, and lack sufficient soil (the aisles have sunk about 8 inches below the pavement.) These have been reported, twice now.
We saw opportunity for at least 5 maybe 8 more shade trees by Toyota and Fire Station 3, the Old Dominion side. See Cherrydale.net/projects and problems/lee hwy tree inspection for more photos.
Along our walk we noted and documented the broken branches, tree damage, dead trees, and admired the newly replace ones. Also documented were the damaged light , the muddle of brick pavers dislodged across from 7/11, and the pile of brick abandoned next to the utility box there, same as during last 3 inspections. We noted the glass panel improperly installed at the Safeway bus stop, which we also noted during the bus stop tour a month ago…. We again reported the 3 inch or so drop from sidewalk to utility cover at the Safeway driveway – a sure trip hazard.
Speaking of Safeway, their trees inside the parking lot are in way better shape that our trees on the sidewalk. Safeway maintains them very well. However, the condition of the brick sidewalk along Safeway is by far in the worst along Leer. We all recall the innumerable times construction redid that section of road, plus the undergrounding. Now the brick pavers undulate like a belly dancer on a narrow ledge. County is claiming that Safeway must make the repairs though the damage seems associated with the undergrounding and Lee Hwy repairs. So despite 5 tours of this section over the past 4 years, this sidewalk has only gotten worse. County has declined to fix the pavers. See photos.
The Christopher Co which built Dominion Heights installed pipes to water the trees on their block. County prefers to use gator bags. We’ll see which trees flourish. It was noted that the sidewalk along Car World has no trees at all. Since it is a wide sidewalk, we are not sure why not. So we’ve put in a request for at least one.
As part of the undergrounding, a utility pole was placed on N Pollard, Maywood side, and we complained about the construction debris and the pipes being uncovered during the previous 2 tours. On this 3rd visit we see the pipes are covered but the aisle is still a construction debris mess: the soil is filled with concrete and pebbles and nothing grows there. We have consistently asked that construction projects are inspected for clean up and for replanting of trees and other plants. We’ll report this site again. See photo.
We noticed that ALL the little walking spaces carved into the medians are too narrow for comfortable wheelchair crossing or for 2 pedestrian walking together. So we’ll put them on a wish list for widening. See photos.
The undergrounding of utilities project has left some eyesores, especially a struggling and poorly maintained “landscaping” around the huge switch/utility boxes by Bono Films (near ON-ramp for I 66) . And exactly at the spot where there was truck damage to the grassy aisle and sidewalk, we now have a very muddy narrowed walk, with grass covering the sidewalk at least a foot. See photo.
Finally, we documented damage by the stormwater sewer near Honda, and a spiky sharp broken metal sign, the stump sticking out of sidewalk rather than removed and concreted over.
I will call the tour a success, as we have a TO DO list for county, and a measure with which to monitor response. But beyond that is a greater success – County staff now have a full visual of the state of our trees, and a dedication to improving them. Perhaps as a result of all our nagging (who knows?).Even better, Mike Collins (Engineering Bureau Chief) started a multi-departmental staff work group to review street tree planting standards and engineering specifications to improve County practices on new streetscape projects, in order to improve the survival and health of new street trees. The group includes staff from the Department of Parks and Recreation, Community Planning, Housing and Development, and the Department of Environmental Services. This is HUGE, different departments are now sharing a vision for preserving and promoting trees.
According to Mr. Bartalon, “This group is “finalizing new details and specifications that will increase the volume and quality of soil in tree pits, which includes engineering solutions that allow for continuous strips of higher quality, less compacted soil to run between tree pits. The sidewalk is reinforced to be able to span the soil panels beneath it, leaving the soil less compacted and available for root growth between pits. The group has also worked to update tree planting details that reflect current landscape best practices. The list of recommended trees is also being reviewed and updated, favoring native trees where possible, but also allowing for non-invasive, non-native trees in situations where conditions are especially harsh and natives would have difficulty surviving. We expect that street trees will survive and thrive better on new streetscape projects than they have in the past.”