Arlington’s Tree Canopy Fund Survey

These trees planted in 2009 are now taller than the apartment building!

In 2008, the Arlington County Board created the Tree Canopy Fund (TCF) to ensure funds contributed by developers who cannot meet tree planting requirements on their sites will be used to plant trees on other private property.  Since then, 1,686 saplings have been planted throughout Arlington under the oversight of the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC).  The program is managed by Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE) and trees are planted by a professional tree care contractor. TCF provides larger trees planted by professionals (these root balls weigh 300 – 500 pounds, and trees are 6 feet tall!), sizes more appealing to condos, apartment managers and homeowners seeking immediate impact for the front yard and sidewalks.  Since planting larger trees professionally is more costly than providing tree whips, TreeStewards were asked to conduct a tree survey in the summer of 2017 to determine the program’s effectiveness.

Over 25 Tree Stewards along with some Master Naturalists were instructed on how to score trees on the survey sheets and told not to enter private property without permission. They were assigned neighborhoods and fanned out over the entire county to search for and assess the trees planted during the last 8 years. Volunteers also distributed educational information to homeowners on how to remove ivy from trees, correct mulching and other topics.  In many cases, volunteers rang doorbells or left notes offering to discuss tree care or ask permission to enter a backyard to better rate a tree.  Other volunteers entered the data collected and assisted with the final analysis.

A recent sweetgum planting is inspected by TreeSteward Bill.

Arlington Oaks received an oak.

  • 1,372 trees or 81.3% were found by the survey volunteers. A tree that was “not found” could mean the tree could not be observed and rated because of a fenced yard or the tree location listed was not clear.  What we do know is that less than 19% of trees planted through the TCF program have died.
  • 88% of the trees found were rated in “Good” condition. This shows that most residents who have received planted trees under the program take care of their trees. Trees were planted throughout Arlington at single family homes (49%), multifamily properties (49%), and nonprofits (2%).

The Tree Canopy Fund also funds education efforts. The 2012 community education campaign to remove ivy from trees allowed Tree Stewards and Master Naturalists to hire a professional communications firm that has resulted in more than 22,000 internet visits and 5,000 pieces of printed material distributed.  In 2018, a community campaign encouraging preservation of mature trees will be conducted by Tree Stewards. Materials will be developed by the same professional communications firm and tested on Arlington homeowners focus groups in February with campaign starting in late March.

All of the Tree Canopy Fund programs depend on volunteers for their success. Arlington residents learn about the free tree offers from notices in civic association newsletters and other media, yet it is committed volunteers who go door to door encouraging neighbors and apartment managers to apply for trees that have had the best success.  Education on tree care in the community is promoted by Arlington’s active volunteers.

The  young trees planted so far under the Tree Canopy Fund programs will require decades before they can replace the tree canopy lost by the removal of large trees during development, yet it is a start.

TreeStewards select saplings for the spring 2018 planting to ensure quality trees.

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About TreeStewards

TreeStewards of Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, are trained volunteers who work to protect, preserve, and enhance urban tree canopy through public education and volunteer activities such as planting, pruning, and caring for trees.
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One Response to Arlington’s Tree Canopy Fund Survey

  1. tonytomeo says:

    As I read this, I am supposed to be getting ready to go to Los Angeles to plant our street trees like we do annually on January 18. It is gratifying to know that so many other towns and cities take their trees seriously.

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